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Full text of "Mind's Eye: A Liberal Arts Journal Fall 2000"

Mind's Eye 

A Liberal Arts Journal 
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 




Francisco Ferrer: 
Assessing the Legacy of a Spanish Iconoclast and Teacher 

ByRoseikK. Charlock 

On Becoming a Teacher and Practicing the Craft: 
A Journey from the '60s Through the '90s 

An interview with Bob Bence by Maynard Seider 

Another Look at the Sea: 
Winslow Homer and Stephen Crane 

Art Notes by Tony Gengarelly 

Herring Season 

By Robin O'Suliivan 

Poetry by 

Hilary Russell 



Fall 2000 



Mind's Eye 

A Liberal Arts Journal 



FALL 2000 



Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 



Editorial Board 

Tony Gengarelly 
Managing Editor 

Bob Bishoff 
Harold Brotzman 
Sumi Colligan 
Abbott Cutler 
Steve Green 
Leon Peters 
*Maynard Seider 
Meera Tamaya 
*0n sabbatical 

© 2000 The Mind's Eye 
ISSN 1098-0512 

Technical assistance from Arlene Bouras 

The Mind's Eye, a journal of scholarly and creative work, is published 
twice annually by the faculty of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. 
While emphasizing articles of scholarly merit. The Mind's Eye focuses 
on a general communication ol ideas of interest to a liberal arts col- 
lege. We welcome expository essays, including reviews, as well as 
fiction, poetry and art. Please refer to the inside back cover for a list 
of writer's guidelines. 

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts 
Formerly North Adams Slale College 

375 Church Street 
North Adams, MA 01 247-4100 

Visit our Web site: www.mcla.mass.edu/academics/mindseyexxx 



Mind's Eye 

Fall 2000 



Editor's File 4 

Francisco Ferrer: Assessing the Legacy of a 
Spanish Iconoclast and Teacher 

By Roselle K. Chartock 5 



On Becoming a Teacher and Practicing the Craft: A 

Journey from the '60s Through the '90s 

An interview with Bob Bence by Maynard Seider 14 



Another Look at the Sea: 
Winslow Homer and Stephen Crane 

By Tony Gengarelly 33 

Poetry by 

Hilary Russell 40 

Herring Season 

By Robin O'Sullivan 43 

LCttCI* .,,.,,MMi.v,,,,.n:..,.,. () .,,lH,,,n T ,,,,,, Jt .. h .. ...... , 66 

Contributors.... 67 



On the cover: Drawing by Professor Gregory Scheckler, Massachusetts 
College of Liberal Arts Fine and Performing Arts Department 



Editor's File 



For thh issue of The Mind's Eye we are most fortunate to have a 
wonderful variety of pieces that touch in diverse ways on the 
theme of education. The lead article by Roselle Charlock on the 
innovative educator Francisco Ferrer explores the broader implica- 
tions of institutional learning. Maynard Seider's penetrating interview 
with Bob Bcnce reveals the personal and professional background of 
an outstanding teacher. The learning curve is extended with an article 
on Winslow Homer and Stephen Crane, who were involved in a kind 
of naturalistic education as they looked to the sea for answers to 
some of the big philosophical questions of their day. Then Robin 
O'Sullivan takes us on a journey of personal learning through a re- 
flective trip to Alaska that turns out to be more than just a visit to her 
sister. Finally, poet Hilary Russell makes us ponder the implications of 
simple acts that become metaphorical teachers, 

As much as we have enjoyed publishing the work of our colleagues 
and others who have favored us with submissions to the journal, ma- 
terial considerations— namely a budgetary shortfall at the college this 
year— plus uncertainty over the retention of a Managing Editor may 
well force us to curtail the future publication of The Mind's Eye. If such 
be the case, we would like to extend our thanks to the college and to 
the journal's authors and artists for making this four-year run such a 
rewarding experience. Hoping that our concerns are premature, we 
still welcome the submission of articles, creative fiction and artwork. 
The deadline for the Spring 2001 edition is January 15. 

Tony Gengarelly 
Managing Editor 



4 The Mind's Eye 



Francisco Ferrer: 



Assessing the Legacy of a 
Spanish Iconoclast and Teacher 

BY ROSELLE K. CHARTOCK 

"The whole value of education lies in respect for 
the physical, intellectual and moral will of the child . . . 
[and] in appealing in a higher degree to the energies 
of the child himself." 

— Francisco Ferrer 



The words of Francisco Ferrer (1 859-1909), an iconoclastic 
Spanish educator and founder of the Escuela Moderna, or Mod- 
ern School, movement in Spain in 1901, echo the sentiments 
of his contemporary, the American icon of progressive education, John 
Dewey (1859-1952). But while Dewey's views have been published 
extensively, Ferrer's views and the term "modern school" are notice- 
ably missing from the literature of education history (Cremin, Ellis, 
Hessong and Weeks, Johnson et al., Webb et al„ Ozman and Craver, 
Pulliam and Van Patten). 

The purpose of this article is twofold: first lo assess Ferrer's contri- 
bution to educational reform in Spain and beyond and the early influ- 
ences that led to his revolutionary ideas and, second, to explain why 



The Mind's Eye 5 



Roselle K. Chartack 



publishers of educational history texts ignore Ferrer's influence while 
including the work of several other European reformers, even radical 
reformers, such as Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852), Johann Heinrich 
Pestalozzi (1746-1827) and Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952). 

The most striking differences between Ferrer and other historical 
reformers lie in his philosophical anarchism and in the nature of his 
demise. On October 1 3, 1909, at the age of 50, Ferrer was executed by 
a firing squad, having been convicted of being "author and chief" of 
what was known as the "Revolution of July" in Barcelona (Archer 1), 
an alleged attempt to overthrow the Spanish monarchy. Putting 
aside his sensational death for the moment, the fact is that Ferrer 
held the same views as other European and American reformers 
who rejected the authoritarianism of the conventional classroom 
and instead favored the kind of student-centered, holistic educa- 
tion that encourages active methods of learning, creativity, manual 
skills and self-reliance. According to his supporters, Ferrer almost 
single-handedly attempted to bring the backward public schools of 
Spain into the modern age for children who could not afford private 
education (Times 1, Avrich), He became a threat to the established 
order, however, when he went beyond his progressive contemporar- 
ies and taught his students to despise the Church and the monarchy 
that dominated Spain at the time. 

The New York Times revealed its own anticlerical, antimonarchy 
bias in its lengthy article reporting Ferrer's execution. The paper blamed 
the two most powerful institutions in Spain for ignoring a system "such 
as the Middle Ages would have prescribed" {Times 1), where some 
school buildings were "no more than stables into which the children 
came after the animals had been taken out to pasture" (Archer 30). 

The paper went on to extol to the point of hyperbole Ferrer's role 
in reforming Spanish education: "Efforts to bring in a more modern 
system [had] failed, failed at least until Ferrer made them successful. 
But in making these efforts successful — in founding fully 100 modern 
and secular [coeducational] schools throughout Spain, and carrying 
them to fruition in spite of the established order, and in promising 
that this system would be extended beyond the primary to the univer- 
sity course— Ferrer won the enmity of men too powerful to be long 
resisted in Spain" (Times 1). 

6 The Mind's Eye 



Rosclk K. Charlock 



William Archer, a biographer of Ferrer, is more critical. He doesn't 
question Ferrer's sincere dedication to school reform but, rather, his 
underlying motives. Writes Archer, "There is nothing to show that 
Ferrer had a genius for education in any large and liberal sense of the 
term. He conceived it simply as an instrument of propaganda, a weapon 
of social and economic enfranchisement' (Archer 247). Further, Ar- 
cher, who calls Ferrer's vision "narrow" (248), believes that Ferrer's 
educational views would have had minimal impact had it not been for 
his sensational trial and execution. He believes that the rich and pow- 
erful to whom Ferrer's ideas were a threat could easily have fought 
him on the educational territory they claimed as their own. The fact 
that they chose in stead to combat his ideas and methods with " the gag 
and garotte" is. in Archer's opinion, what gave Ferrer the status of 
martyr and educational genius (Archer 248). 

While Archer may be right, there are others who believe that it 
was, indeed, the depth and validity of Ferrer's educational principles 
that led to the protest movements among his sympathizers in political, 
literary and educational cirdes throughout Europe and the United 
States. Under a banner headline. The New York Times of October 17, 
1909, explained that the movement against Ferrer's execution "did 
not grow out of anger about the disregard of the simplest forms of 
justice which Spain [had] shown in killing Ferrer virtually withuut. 
trial" but, rather, "because of the sympathy of cultured men with the 
man who has done more than anyone else to introduce modern edu- 
cation into benighted Spain; it is chiefly due to a feeling that it is be- 
cause of these efforts of his for modern education, and not because of 
any of the anarchistic doctrines he may have possessed, that Ferrer 
has been done to death" {Times 1 ), 

The early Influences that led Ferrer to become an "uncompromis- 
ing idealist" (Archer 248) varied. The son of a fairly well-to-do fanner, 
Ferrer attended the local municipal school in Alella, 12 miles from 
Barcelona. Like many government-run schools during the 1860s, this 
school was devoid of stimuli, it didn't even have the crucifix, pictures 
of saints or the hymn to the Spanish flag thai would become common 
decoration by 1909. But there was still no playground and the school- 
master stiil earned less than the equivalent of $30 a year, and this 
region was better off than most others in Spain. 



The MindS Eye 7 



Resells K. Charlock 



Ferrer left school at the age of 1 2 to go to work for a corn and seed 
merchant who exposed him to anticlerical attitudes (Archer 5). And 
from an even earlier age he had heard stories from a favorite uncle 
about revolutionary conspiracies to overthrow the monarchy (Archer 
4) . Such were the influences that led Ferrer to take up a political struggle 
using education as the major weapon "to fight against the forces that 
ruled at the expense of others" (Archer 5). 

At the age of 20, Ferrer was working for the Madrid, Saragossa 
and Alicante Railway Company as a ticket inspector, and soon after 
starting the job, married a woman he had met on the train. Ferrer 
remained employed with the company until 1885, when he resigned 
and moved to Paris for reasons that remain unclear. His years in Paris, 
according to Archer, were years of struggle (Archer 5). By 1889, he 

while at the same time beginning to earn a living teaching Spanish. 
He also acted as unpaid secretary to Ruiz Zorrilla, the Republican leader 
in exile in Geneva until Zorrilla's death in 1895. Interestingly, Ferrer 
was acquiring some reputation as a teacher when his marriage fell 
apart, and quite publicly. His wife, in 1894, went after him with a gun 
and fired iwu shots at Ferrer. (But this is a story for another time, 
She was a poor shot, and the court released her because it was a first 
offense.) 

It may have been, in part, due to the collapse of his family life that 
Ferrer underwent a change. He severed many of the lies he'd had 
with the Republican Revolutionary Parties and devoted more time to 
his teaching. Ferrer came to believe that political revolution could not 
take place as long as more than half of his countrymen were illiterate 
and the rest received education that was "miserable in both methods 
and spirit"(Archer 19). 

It was around the time of the collapse of his marriage that Ferrer 
became reacquainted with a Mile. Aieunier, who had taken Spanish 
lessons from him several years earlier. She believed in his educational 
goals, and they, along with the woman to whom Ferrer was then en- 
gaged, became frequent companions. The three returned together to 
Barcelona, where on September 8, 190 1, Ferrer started his first classes 



8 The Mind's Eye 



Roselle K. Chartock 



educational work — despite her strong connection to the Catholic 
Church — arid when she died in 1901, she left him a small fortune and 
her home, where he established the first Escuela Moderns. Within a 
year, Ferrer expanded his schools beyond Barcelona. In order to spread 
his own modern, and in some cases revolutionary, teachings, Ferrer 
started a small publishing house that also released translations of 
the works of scientists and educators who, like Ferrer, believed in 
"rational and scientific teaching . . . which humanizes and dignifies" 
{Times 5). In addition, he issued a monthty Bulletin of the Escuela 
Moderna that was disseminated widely and contained the clearest 
expressions of bis philosophy. 

Interestingly, John Dewey's works may have been among those 
translated by Ferrer's press. While there is no indication that they knew 
of each other, there are reasons to believe they did. For example, sev- 
eral Americans who participated in the massive protests that followed 
Ferrer's execution in 1909 were Dewey's close professional associates 
and friends. They inciuded Emma Goldman, "the most famous and 
articulate anarchist in America" (Avrich 37), the muckraker Upton 
Sinclair, author of The Jungle, and lawyer Clarence Darrow, all of whom 
worked to keep Ferrer's Modern School legacy alive. After Ferrer's 
execution, several protest meetings were held, one in Philadelphia 
and another in New York's Carnegie Hall. "The Socialists , . . [tried] to 
get eminent men of all parties to take part in the speechmaking" 
{Times 5). According to Peter Avrich, who appears to have done the 
most comprehensive research to date on Ferrer's legacy, Goldman 
did more than anyone else to keep alive America's interest in Ferrer, 
and she was among those who, along with Darrow and Sinclair, 
organized the Francisco Ferrer Association on June 3, 1910, which 
went on to open a school based on Ferrer's Modern School model 
(Avrich 36-38}. 

Another connection between Dewey and Ferrer— or at least 
Ferrer's legacy — is evident in a visit by Dewey to Marietta Pierce 
Johnson's "School of Organic Education" founded in 1907 in Fairhope, 
Alabama, and characterized by a student-centered, informaf atmo- 
sphere that emphasized student inquiry and freedom of expression. 
The school was a precursor of the American Modern Schools move- 



The Mind's Eye 9 



Roselle K. Charlock 



ment inspired after Ferrer's execution. The Alabama school's innova- 
tions — among them the elimination of exams and report cards, which 
Mrs. Johnson believed led to children's feeling the stigma of failure- 
attracted "the interest of many progressive educators, among them 
John Dewey, who came to Fairhope for a firsthand look and devoted a 
chapter of his Schools of Tomorrow (1915) to Mrs. Johnson's experi- 
ment" < Avrich 57). And, further, several students who studied under 
Dewey at Columbia, including Lilian Rifkin and Gray Wu, went on to 
teach at the Ferrer School in Stelton, New Jersey, which had become 
a Ferrer colony of year-round inhabitants by 1920 and to which visi- 
tors from New York, Philadelphia and other cities came to take part in 
"discussions and entertainments" (Avrich 244). John Dewey was 
among the visitors to the colony during its early years.* 

With evidence of links between Dewey and Ferrer and the subse- 
quent creation of schools devoted to Ferrer's legacy comes the still 
unanswered question: Why has Ferrer's work been lost to teachers? 
The answer may he in the striking similarities between a monarchistic 
Spain and an allegedly democratic America. The fact is that Ferrer's 
anarchism and radical politics challenged not only the Catholic Church 
and the monarchy in Spain, but also American political and religious 
institutions. For even though American society, in general, was, by 
the early 20th century, defined by democratic values, and even though 
tire 19th century gave rise to the establishment of free public educa- 
tion, nevertheless, there still remained in America a serious problem: 
a very wide gap between the rich and the poor. Growing unrest among 
the American working class had led to massive strikes and protests 
pressuring the government into passing reforms to relieve the grow- 
ing frustration and potential for revolution. That historical period of 
reform, referred to as "the progressive era" (f 898-1 917), evolved as a 
result of outcries against economic, political and social injustices, not 



The Stelton School operated until 1 95 3 and, along with some 20 other such schools, 
lost some ol its radical emphasis and evolved into a school associated with Dewey's 
progressive education movement. All of these schools finally collapsed by the end 
of the 1 950s. "Since that time Rutgers [University, a stone's throw from the former 
colonyj has become the repository of the Ferrer movement archives" (Avrich 351). 

10 The Mind's Eye 



Rosette K. Charlock 



so different from the outcries heard but ignored by the Spanish mon- 
archy at that time (Archer 1 19—32). And both before and during that 
period of protest in America, there had been instances of repression 
similar to the execution of Ferrer in Spain. A majority of Americans, 
like the majority in Spain and elsewhere, feared anarchists, and both 
countries share a history of unjust prosecution aird execution of men 
and women associated with anarchistic ideas. For example, years be- 
fore Ferrer's trial in Spain, a Chicago judge and jury condemned to 
death a group of anarchists who had been framed for setting off a 
bomb in Haymarket Square, where a rally had been called to partici- 
pate in a May 1, 1886, general strike for the eight-hour day. Four of 
the defendants were hanged, the other four imprisoned. Illinois gov- 
ernor John Peter Altgeld researched the trial and found it to have 
been a travesty of justice. So he made the brave decision to pa rdon the 
remaining defendants. The decision cost him his political career. An 
angry and outspoken upper class, fearing the radicals, called Altgeld 
an anarchist and effectively silenced this man whom John F. Kennedy 
profiled in his book Profiles in Courage. 

Again in the 1920s, a few years after the Bolshevik Revolution of 
1917, and a decade after Ferrer's execution, fears of communism and 
anarchy led to a Red Scare in America, and anarchists and radicals 
were rounded up and incarcerated without due process. Two of those 
radicals, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, were tried for mur- 
dering a paymaster and a guard during a $f 5,000 payroll robbery at 
South Braintree, Massachusetts, in April of 1920. Despite shaky evi- 
dence by the prosecution and convincing evidence of their innocence 
(after their death, the Justice Department in Boston submitted sworn 
affidavits that the government knew Sacco and Vanzetti were inno- 
cent but prosecuted them exclusively for their political beliefs), the two 
were found guilty and sentenced to death (Cooney and Michalowski 
66). Their execution on August 2 3, 1927, resulted in the same massive 
protests around the world that had followed Ferrer's in 1 909. 

With this common political history in mind, there is the likelihood 
that American educational publishers, who generally like to maintain 
a safe distance from controversy, considered Ferrer and his work in 
Spain to be too inflammatory for their textbooks. Ron Miller, in his 



The Mind's Eye 11 



Koselle K. Charlock 

book on holistic education, What Are Schools For?, explains why certain 
radical educators' views have been ignored. Notes Miller, "The guard- 
ians of culture dismiss anarchists, like all romantics, as foolish, senti- 
mental rebels who simply cannot accept legitimate authority or the 
needs uf an organized society" (Miller 123). Miller argues that this 
casual dismissal obscures the useful critiques of society that the radi- 
cals may be making. "By dismissing social criticism as 'un-American' 
(and in Ferrer's case as 'un-Spanish'), [the guardiansl ensure that it will 
not be taken seriously, in fact," Miller believes, "anarchists made some 
very penetrating criticism about American culture" (Miller 123-4). 

It is now nearly the centennial of Ferrer's death. Reconsidering 
his dedication to establishing quality education in Spain and his im- 
pressive following in the United States among noted intellectuals, per- 
haps the time has come lor a graduate student or education scholar to 
do some serious probing into Ferrer's legacy. With the possibilities of 
such validation, Ferrer may be able to take his place in the literature 
alongside current iconoclasts who, like Ferrer, have challenged the 
inequ i ties of authoritarian approaches to teaching a nd learning ( Friere, 
Gatto, Holt, Illich, Kozol, Neill). 

On the other hand, further scrutiny may prove that Ferrer's legacy 
does not qualify him to stand beside these contemporary critics. If we 
were to adopt the perspective of William Archer, Ferrer's first biogra- 
pher, we would conclude that, had his enemies in high places just left 
him in peace, Ferrer might have reopened his school for another 20 
years and died quietly, leaving behind him some repute as an educa- 
tor. But, believes Archer, Ferrer certainly would never have gained 
worldwide fame and rhe label "martyr of free thought" (Archer 252), 
had he not met his death by firing squad in i909. 

Works Cited 

Archer, William. The Life, Trial, and Death of Francisco Ferrer. New York: 
Moffat, 19U, 

Avrich, Paul. The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in 
the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1980. 



12 The Mind's Eye 



Roselle K. Chartock 



Cooney, Robert, and Helen Michalowski, eds. The Power of the People: 
Active Non-Violence in the United States. Culver City, CA: Peace 
Press, 1977. 

Cremin, Lawrence, American Education: The Metropolitan Experience, 1876- 
1980. New York: Harper, 1988. 

Dewey, John . The Child and the Curriculum; The School and Society. Chi- 
cago: U of Chicago P, 1974. 

. Democracy and Education. New York: Free Press, 1966, 

. Schools of Tomorrow. New York: Dutton, 1915. 

Ellis, Arthur K., et al. Introduction to the Foundations of Education. 
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1991. 

"Ferrer — Whose Death Has Shaken Europe." New York Times 17 Oct. 
1909, part 5, mag. sec: 1, 5. (Microfilm) 

Friere, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Transl. Myra Bergman Ramos. 
New York: Seabury, 1968. 

Gatto, John. Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory 
Schooling. New York: New Society, 1992. 

Hessong, Robert E, and Thomas H. Weeks. Introduction to the Founda- 
tions of Education. New York: Macmillan, 1991. 

Holt, John. Freedom and Beyond. New York: Holt, 1 984. 

Illich, Ivan, Deschooling Society. New York: Harper, 1 983. 

Johnson, James A., et al. Introduction to the Foundations of American 
Education. Boston: Allyn, 1996. 

Kennedy, John F. Profiles in Courage. New York: Harper, 1964. 

Kozol, Jonathan. Death at an Early Age. New York: Bantam, 1968. 

. Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools. New York: 

Crown, 1991. 

Miller, Ron. What Are Schools For? Holistic Education in American Culture. 

Brandon, VT: Holistic, 1990. 
Neil], A. S. Summerhill, A Radical Approach to Child Rearing. New York: 

Hart, 1964. 

Ozmon, Howard, and Samuel Craver. Philosophical Foundations of Edu- 
cation. Columbus, OH: Merrill, 1995. 

Pulliam, John D., and James Van Patten. History of Education in America. 
Columbus, OH: Merrill, 1995. 

Webb, L. Dean, et al. Foundations of Education. Columbus, OH: Merrill, 
2000. 



The Mind's Eye 13 



On Becoming a Teacher 
and Practicing the Craft: 
A Journey from the '60s 
Through the '90s 

An interview with Bob Bence 



BY MAYNARD SEIDER 



As part of an inaugural series of essays and interviews focusing 
on teaching, veteran political science professor Bob Bencc 
(B) was interviewed by Mind's Eye Editorial Board member 
Maynard Selder (S) during the summer of 1999. Bob Bence has served 
as chair of the Department of History, Political Science and Geography 
and twice received the Distinguished Service Award from the college, 
as well as the Faculty Association Senior Faculty Award. Boh lives in 
Stamlord, Vermont, with his wife, Ellen Doyle, former director of the 
MCLA Counseling Center, and their son, John. 

Born in 1944 iri Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Bob grew up In 
Marion Center, a very small town "in the heart of northern Appala- 
chian His parents had graduated from high school during the Depres- 
sion, and Bob became the first member of his family to attend college. 
Our edited transcript picks up at that point. 



14 The Mind's Eye 



Bob Bence 



S: When you were in high school, were most of your peers, thinking of 
attending college? 

8: Probably less than half actually thought about going to college. 
Most went to work, primarily in the coal mines. The group of people 1 
tended to gravitate to were like-minded people, so most of my imme- 
diate friends were considering college and a career in teaching. At that 
time, you went to college for practical purposes and teaching appeared 
to be the most obvious career choice. 

S: It was a career that was growing and in which one could get a job. 

B: Those were baby boomer times. There was a dearth of teachers and 
it was quite easy to get a job. 

S: What did you know about the kinds of colleges that were out there? 
Were your guidance counselors helpful? 

B: I didn't receive much information from my guidance counselor. I 
simply went to college fairs and responded to athletic recruiters — 
basketball coaches, of course. It's a handicap coming from a family 
that doesn't know much about education, and you reaily don't have 
much help in sorting all that out. Even if children do come from a 
privileged background, I'm not sure most students understand or have 
a good basis for choice, f'm always amazed at why people choose the 
institutions they do. Much is by accident, or running into the right 
person at the right time, often influenced by peer decisions. 

S: Did you play varsity basketball in high school? 

B: Yes. 

S: You can tell us on the record how you were as a ballplayer. A lot of 
people see you around here and know, of course. 

B: I did fine and the school did well. Again, it was a small town with 
an extremely small high school and sports were the cultural center of 



The Mind's Eye 15 



Bob Bence 



the community. In retrospect, I have mixed feelings about competi- 
tive sports. They can cause some real damage, but for me, it was the 
easiest path to seff-esteem and confidence. There weren't many alter- 
native activities that one could have chosen. 

S: Did your basketball playing bring you into contact with coaches 
and colleges that you might not have thought of? 

B: Yes, that's correct. I went to summer basketball camps and did some 
other sports- related travel. As a parent and as an educator, 1 think 
back now on my youth, trying to expand my children's and students' 
experience bases, how this is a necessary process for those of us who 
grew up in fairly poor, rural areas. So there are all kinds of things that 
one can do. The easier avenue for me, at that point, was sports. You 
got to travel a bit and see what the world looked like outside your 
own minuscule environment. 

S: Traveling outside western Pennsylvania? 

B: Yes, I at least got to eastern Ohio and traveled in the Middle Atlan- 
tic states quite a bit. 1 had scholarships to a couple of schools. Virginia 
Military Institute was one of them. Fortunately, at that age, I knew I 
wasn't a soldier. VMI would have changed my life and taken me in a 
different direction, possibly now having to defend gender segregation. 

S: So what was your choice of college? 

B: I chose a local school, simply because it was close and didn't seem 
like much of a leap. I think it takes something special for students, at 
least 18-year-olds, to go far away from home, at least at that time it 
did in that kind of community. I admire the courage of people in that 
age range who go to school 3000 miles away and have some kind of 
summer experience overseas. I think that is one of the things I find 
here at this college. It's difficult to get people to leave Massachusetts 
for a short time, sometimes even for a weekend, and I'd like to see 
more students take some risks and study overseas, do some exchange 
programs, work in New York City and challenge themselves, abandon 
the security arrangements they're so comfortable with. 



16 The Mind's Eye 



Bab Bence 



S: And the school you went to was Indiana University of Pennsylvania? 
B: Yes, that's correct. 

S: A state college in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Could you tell us about 
the size of the town, and the people? 

B: About 12,000 people. It's in the center of a mining area about 15 
miles from my home. It's probably most famous as the home of Jimmy 
Stewart, the actor. There's now a Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana. 
His father was in the same business as my father. The university had 
what universities usually offer, but it was in a transitional stage from a 
normal school/state teachers college/state college to a university, so it 
was still fairly focused on education. But still, it was a world away 
from what 1 was used to. 

S: Were you a dormitory student? 

B: No, 1 stayed at a private residence with three other students. We 
rented rooms in a house. My father was concerned about dorms. He 
wanted me to stay near the college but thought I needed a little more 
sheltering than a dorm might provide. I didn't care either way. 

S: Did he know the house owner? 

B: No, just went through the want. ads. 

S: Were you more sheltered than in a dorm? 

B: Good question! We didn't drink in the house and I liked the family 
quite a bit and became close to the people who lived with us, my 
roo mmates/housemates . 

S: Have you stayed in touch with them? 

B: No, it's amazing how few friends from my sordid past I have stayed 
in touch with over the years. I think about them, a lot. 



The Mind's Eye 17 



Bob Bence 



8: Did you move into a dorm? 

B: No, I got married when I was a senior and moved into an apart- 
ment with my wife. 

S: So you started college around '62 and graduated around '66. 
What do you remember most about those four years? 

B: I remember growing. I think the first couple of years, academically, 
were somewhat lost on me. All of us have developmental levels that 
proceed at various paces, and f don't think it was until I was a junior 
that f made connections with faculty, subjects and courses. By the 
time I was a senior, I felt somewhat academic, somewhat scholarly, 
But it took a long time. It is not easy for 18- or 19-year-olds to under- 
stand scholarship, what learning is all about, why French history counts 
for anything, or any other subject that seems fairly esoteric and ab- 
stract. Of course, 1 played basketball, loo. 

S: You played basketball throughout college. Much traveling? 

B; Mostly within Pennsylvania and neighboring states. 

S: How much time did that take? 

B: ft didn't seem excessive, but 1 was a person with few hobbies, so, in 
fact, it didn't seem terribly tune-consuming. I think with university 
level sports, my experience was that people dropped in and out of 
them and there were very few people who started when 1 did who 
remained on the team for four years. People transferred in and out of 
school. I think when I was a senior there were only two of us who 
had started on the team as freshmen. So basketball, in a sense, seemed 
like a fairly tenuous, rootless kind of experience for me. As far as 
bonding or developing long-lasting friendships, there simply wasn't 
the consistency. 

S: In terms of getting into academia and scholarship, you said by the 
time you were a junior you had moved in that direction. Was it a 
teacher or a course, or something that gradually evolved? 

18 The Mind's Eye 



Bob Bence 



B: I think gradual evolution is probably the most appropriate phrase. I 
do remember some professors, one in particular, who brought home 
the difference between personal criticism and scholarly criticism. I re- 
member some who actually taught me to be an individual and asked 
me what 1 thought. That was sort of symbiotic, too, because I think I 
was contributing and reading. I think, too, that 18- or 19-year-olds 
and even older people sometimes personalize the courses they have 
and spend a lot of time talking about "the professor," rather than the 
subject, although professorial personalities are not unimportant. There 
is a process that takes place where you begin to see there is something 
more important than personalities going on. 

S: Were you majoring in political science then? 

B: No, at that point, like everyone else I knew, 1 was majoring in edu- 
cation, social science education. 

S: Right; you wanted to be a teacher. 

B: I was taking all kinds of courses — political science courses, history 
courses, economics, sociology. Son of a nice idea, since we tend to 
segment subjects a bit too much. 

S: Were you doing practice teaching by the rime yon were a senior? 
B: Yes. 

S: How did that work for you? 

B: Made me realize that it would be difficult to be a teacher, especially 
at the middle school or junior high level. I had a difficult time trying to 
discipline. 1 was either loo passive or overreacting, and I found that 
consumed an amazing amount of time. However, it was a good expe- 
rience and I had a wonderful mentor who was a very bright person. 
High school teaching seemed like something f could do, but 1 was not 
certain it was what my life should be about. 



The Mind's Eye 19 



Bob Berne 



S: Did you begin teaching after you graduated? 

B: No, at the end of my senior year, my basketball coach asked if I 
would iike to stay around and be an assistant coach. He said, "We can 
provide you with a stipend and you can stay and get a master's de- 
gree." So it seemed like a nice way to postpone my career. 

S: And what did you get the master's in? 

B: in education, since at that point it was the only graduate degree 
that existed at that place. So I got a master's in social science with the 
intention of becoming a teacher and probably also a basketball coach, 
People often choose careers based on what they see other folks doing. 
I hadn't seen people doing many things. Certainly, of all f had wit- 

i the tnost fun. 



S: What was the coaching experience like under your Indiana coach? 

B: Fairly dull! I'm a player, not a coach, really. I've coached off and on 
since then, but it's much more fun to play. I think I spent most of my 
coaching time practicing with the team. 

S; I know you teach a course now on Vietnam and the '60s. What 
were the '60s like when you were an undergraduate at Indiana? 

B: Again, context here was the community of Indiana and Appala- 
chia. The '60s, at that point, really hadn't reached Indiana. So when I 
graduated in '66, all healthy males were bused to Pittsburgh for a draft 
induction physical, which I quite enjoyed— one of the best days f've 
ever spent in my life, ft was quite fun! 



B: Well, being with all of those people and being sarcastic and cynical, 
.somewhat aloof from the process and telling jokes, in '66 in Indi- 
ana, there were no protests, no public displays regarding the war. 



20 The Mind's Bye 



Bob Bence 



no professors who said anything. None of my fellow senior males had 
any criticism of the war at all. I don't think there is any such thing as 
absolute independent thought. You need the right environment, you 
tieed influential people, you need to have something impact yuu. So I 
just went along for the ride there. 1 would certainly have been con- 
cerned had I been drafted. My lather turns out to be fairly important 
here, too. He did not want me to go to war. I had to leave that com- 
munity to experience the '60s. I almost had to get close to the '70s 
before 1 could experience at least the politics ol the '60s. Even the 
social issues, be it drugs, free iove, gender equity, racism — none of 
that had really permeated much of my little society. 

S: People were obviously aware there was a civil rights movemeui, 
the beginning of an antiwar movement, but was it something you 
read about in the newspaper? 

B: Absolutely, but it was quite removed. Again, you have to trust your 
memory, but I was extremely unaware. No one I knew talked about it. 
At that point, I was not talking to people from very diverse backgrounds. 

S: Did you leave after your master's degree? 

B: Al ter that master's degree, i decided it was time to get a job. There 
was a shortage of teachers, so I got a job 1 felt I wasn't qualified for, 
teaching world history at a stale college in central West Virginia — 
Glenville State College, f managed to find a place even more isolated 
than my hometown. However, the '60s did eventually reach Glenville, 
West Virginia. We had protests, moratoriums. . . . [They] closed down 
the school after presenting 22 nonnegottable demands! This was '67, 
'68. That was pretty interesting. I met people from other places, too. 
My officemate was from Berkeley. In the first two weeks of school, he 
refused to stand up for The Star-Spangled Banner and spit on the Air 
Force recruiter! That was a fairly eye-opening experience for me, hav- 
ing come from a patriotic, fairly submissive community. 



The Mini's Bye 1\ 



Bob Bena 



S: How did you feel about all that? 

B: I think people have core values and normally stay with them for a 
while. My core values are getting along with people, solving prob- 
lems. But also, one of my core values is humanity, also peacefulness. 
The antiwar movement was real attractive that way; however, spit- 
ting on Air Force recruiters — well, that sort of scared me! Something 
totally outside my experience base. Not a nice thing to do, as well as 
particularly risky with regard to the consequences. But it was good for 
me to be challenged. And, as you know, if you lived through this pe- 
riod, one of the great things about the '60s was that eventually you 
had to say what you believed, as it was difficult to go somewhere in 
academia and not have someone ask you what you thought, not have 
someone be angry, emotional, passionate, and want to know what 
your response was to those feelings, and so, the '60s caught up with 
me in, of all places, central West Virginia. One was forced to read and 
clarify thoughts, and students asked you what you thought — it was 
nice that way. Something I miss today. Very seldom do we get chal- 
lenged externally and have to promote, defend, explain our beliefs. 

S: How long were you in Glenville? 

B: Two years. 

S: Did the kind of protest that was happening on the outside, the kind 
of questioning that was happening on the outside, directly affect the 
classroom? 

B: Absolutely. By that point, I was teaching American Government. 
Every American Government text by '68, '69, was mentioning Viet- 
nam, and that was on people's minds. Of course, there were the assassi- 
nations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy while I was 
teaching. Those were powerful media experiences, regardless of where 
you lived. Replayed over and over. I also spent a summer in North Caro- 
lina at the University of North Carolina. I went to hear George Wallace 
speak, went to hear some civil rights workers. That was a very segre- 
gated place and my introduction to institutional racism. 



22 The Mind's Eye 



Bab Bence 



S: Was Chapel Hill still segregated in '68? 

B: Absolutely. African-Americans were bused into work in the morn- 
ing and bused out at night. 

S: Were you taking summer school classes? 

B: Yes, I was at, of all things, an institute in political science, with a 
Cold War orientation, sponsored by the National Education Defense 
Act. But it was wonderful and turned out to be a fairly subversive 
program, paid for by the federal government! But it was also an intro- 
duction to heavy-duty political science, philosophy, behaviorism and 
political activism, all in one not so neatly tied package. 

S: Were these graduate credit courses? 

B: Yes. 

S: And this was '68, so Wallace was running for President. What was 
that like, hearing him speak? 

B: I was a bit shocked. It was at a tobacco auction house and my wife 
and I went — she was pregnant, which I think probably saved us. There 
were all these tobacco farmers who sat still when The Star-Spangled 
Banner was played but went crazy when Dixie was played. When 
Wallace came out, well, I'd seen evangelists before, when I was grow- 
ing up, but this was political evangelism. There was no intellectual 
content to it at all, pure faith and emotion, and it brought home to me 
the reality of that realiy angry populism that Wallace represented. 

S: Do you remember what he said? 

B: He ran off the cliches that he usually did, you know: "A student lies 
down in front of my car, it will be the last time he lies down in front of 
anyone's car. Take all the pointy-headed bureaucrats out and shoot 
them." It was a fairly violent speech and I remember at the end he 
said, "Well, it's gonna rain and I've gotta quit"— and it rained! It was 



The Mind's Eye 21 



Bob Rente 



almost like he commanded it to rain! Again, you grow and develop, 
hopefully people do, you take these experiences and combine the things 
you read and begin to be aware of social class, too, that it isn't just 
race. I had also heard someone else speak about the same time, saying 
that if black Americans and Wallace supporters ever got together, 
they would realize just how much they had in common. That was sort 
of an eye-opener, too. I had never, even as a university student, talked 
about class. This was good, I was seeing this firsthand, it became im- 
portant to me. The day after I saw George Wallace speak, I saw Eu- 
gene McCarthy in a parade during his campaign for the Presidency — 
a very different platform, different audience, mainly students. The only 
bumper sticker f ever put on a car was a McCarthy daisy. 

S: f think I remember those. 

B: I had met McCarthy earlier, back in fndiana. He had debated John 
S tennis, a Senator from Mississippi, on the role of government, but it 
was a very sterile debate. The two people obviously liked each other, 
so it wasn't very much fun. Now, the way political debating works, it 
would be different. 

S: Did you work for McCarthy? 

B: No; when I went back to West Virginia, there were no organiza- 
tions, there was only the traditional Democratic Party. Everything went 
through the Democratic Party. There were, other than episodic, sort of 
sporadic movements, no organizations whatsoever there. Anyone com- 
ing in from the outside would have been looked at suspiciously. There 
simply wasn't the opportunity. 

S: How did the election in '68 turn out in your part of West Virginia? 
B (laughing): Democrats always won! Whoever wins the primary. . . . 
S: Was Wallace much of a factor there? 



24 The Mind's Eye 



Bab Bence 



B: No, not at that point. I think he would be now, and might have 
been in '72, I'm not sure. No, it was pretty much a Democratic pri- 
mary. Also, the elections were fairly corrupt. Votes were bought. 

S: Speaking of that, thinking back to your experiences at Indiana, it 
sounds like a working-class institution— you know, students graduat- 
ing and getting on the bus to go to Pittsburgh to get their draft medical 
exam. That probably wouldn't happen at other institutions with up- 
per-middle-dass, upper-class kids. They might have other ways of get- 
ting out of the draft. I wonder if that was a major issue around there. 

B: I think there could have been some class traits involved in that sort 
of passive acceptance of the draft. 1 certainly see it more as a result of 
the era or the time. Had it been the following year, I don't think it 
would have been the same— '67 as opposed to '66. 

S: Things were changing quickly. 

B: Yes, they would there, too, eventually. 

S: Your having the experience of being in the rural , more isolated work- 
ing-class areas certainly gives you a different sense of the '60s. Berkeley 
was not everywhere. How much longer did you stay in West Virginia? 

B: T taught at Glenville State College from the fall of '67 till the spring 
of '69, and then I went back to a university. 1 wanted more potitical 
science. I did not want to be a historian; politics were more exciting. 1 
had been teaching political science, so I went to the closest, cheapest 
university, West Virginia University in Morgantown. I got a master's 
degree there in '69. That was fine. I liked the classes a lot; I liked my 
professors. By then, f think I was a "real" student, certainly more so 
than I had ever been before. And, again, one couldn't escape politics. 
Morgantown at that point had a core of political activists, mainly from 
New Jersey [both laughing], who formed student political parties, and 
we had moratoriums. After Kent State, a group of students burned 
down the ROTC building and were teargassed by state police, Again, 



The Mind's Eye 25 



Bob Bence 



it's hard for students now to imagine the all-encompassing political 
atmosphere of that era. It was difficult to escape facing the war in 
Vietnam or escape politics in the late '60s, early '70s, I actually re- 
mem tier when there was a student moratorium, I went to class be- 
cause f had Russian History that day with a German-Jewish professor 
whom 1 really respected, since he had been in a World War It concern 
tration camp. There were two of us and we just talked with him about 
the war and he said, "What's right here? How do we figure this out?" 
He engaged us, he wasn't polemical or anything, just trying to figure 
this all out. "What do you think about things?" That was probably the 
best moratorium I ever had! [Laughing] I spent the time with a very 
bright person thinking about what all that meant. I have a lot of admi- 
ration for that guy. 

S: And Kent State practically next door. 

B: Yes. It was a hike over the mountains, but it really wasn't that far 
away. I don't think it mattered where you were at the time of Kent 
State. If you were on a college campus, it could happen anywhere. 

S: I remember a Social Change class I taught here, where students did 
research on what the '60s were like here and uncovered a lot of inter- 
esting little things, not the least of which was that the college actually 
dosed down in the late spring of 1970 over the war. There was so 
much going on they just decided to end the semester. A few years 
before that, students protested to end the dress code on campus. 

B: My best, my only childhood friend had just come back from Viet- 
nam and wanted to go to school and be in a nice, safe, insulated envi- 
ronment, so he enrolled at Kent State! The semester he enrolled was 
the semester of the shooting. In fact, I think he was in the library. So 
when he heard the weapons, he instinctively hit the floor and had a 
flashback. Certainly, Kent State would have been one of the most re- 
moved and isolated schools you could find. 

S: You said you realty got interested in political science. Was there a 
particular area of it that you were moving toward? 



26 The Mind's Eye 



Bob Bras* 



B: I liked it all. Looking back on it now, I don't really think I knew 
what I was doing. I began studying American government, primarily 
Congress (maybe because I wanted to be a legislator), but almost ev- 
ery time I focused on American government, 1 tended to look at for- 
eign policy. My thesis was on Senatorial initiative and foreign policy. I 
took a lot of courses on U.S. foreign policy, and then I would sneak in 
these courses on Russian history, or Spanish colonial history, or com- 
parative politics, British government. So I think 1 had convinced my- 
self that I should focus on the United States, because, after all, that 
was where my strength was, because I am an American. But what was 
happening was clearly a growing interest in the outside world. 

S: Was your master's thesis a behavioral science thesis or more 
historical? 

B: Well, it was more historical, and t did a little behavioral research. 
1 flirted quite a bit for five or six years with statistics and beha vioralism. 
North Carolina was on the cutting edge of using computer technol- 
ogy and analyzing human behavior, so I thought 1 had to pay atten- 
tion to that. 

S: And what happened after your master's degree? 

B: f seem to be always looking for peripheral places in the United 
States. I took a job at a branch of the University of Wisconsin, a two- 
year campus in northern Wisconsin. Once again, I seemed to be trying 
to re-create the small-town experience, this time in a town of about 
3000 in cheese country. 

S: So you left Punxsutawney, but your heart was still there. 

B: Yes, that's right. I tend to live in the poorest county of any state 1 
reside in. But it was a very pleasant experience. 1 spent three years 
there. 

S: And this was a period of time when you had a couple of master's 
degrees and were able to get a tenure-track job at a college. 



The Mind's Eyt 27 



Bah Rente 



B; At that point, I had experience teaching a variety of courses. This 
campus was very much a community school. 

S: And what was the teaching experience like there? 

B: I had a lot of first-generation college students, returning Vietnam 
vets (the best students in the world), quite a few Menominee Indians, 
and I got heavily involved in politics and the antiwar movement. 
During the 1972 election, 1 was county chairman of the local Demo- 
cratic Party. One of the advantages of living in small places, it was a 
wonderful experience. 1 saw my students becoming active. And if you 
needed a shot of radicalism to keep you going for a year, you just 
spent a week down at Madison — as you know from your own grad 
school experience there — and people handed you all the flyers you'd 
ever want, with a few extras to take back home. 

S: Was being county chairman of the Democratic Party your first di- 
rect involvement in politics? 

B: yes, that's correct. A lesson i'd learned as a child was to stay away 
from politics because of the disharmony and disunity that it ca n cause, 
and the risks that come from publicly exposing your beliefs. But in 
this context, public speaking felt natural. I remember, we always met 
at a bar, a different bar in various parts of the county. I remember 
standing on a pool table, giving my greatest anti-Nixon speech ever. 
[Laughing] It was fun! I ran the McGovern campaign in that county in 
1972. His closest competitor was George Wallace, but we won. The 
students went to every door in the county. 

S: Sounds like it was a good feeling. 

B: Yes; as you know, the activities around political campaigns tend to 
be more social than political, so it was exciting. 

S: You mentioned the dangers of exposing your beliefs. Since now 
you are obviously challenging that, is this a really key turning point, 
saying, "I can do this. I can be successful at it"? 

28 The Mind's Eye 



Bob Bence 



B: Probably so, but I don't think it turned me around 180 degrees. 
Still, I think I felt better about speaking out, saying publicly what I 
believe. But I am also cautious about doing that. I try to control that as 
much as possible, so I don't think I do it so often. Campaigns are some- 
thing you try to plan and orga n ize, so there is not a great deal of spon- 
taneity. But it's quite fun. 1 do enjoy talking with people about those 
things, although it was often difficult working for McGovern in a very 
conservative Roman Cathoik area with issues such as gun control and 
abortion, which were single issues for some people. 1 was asked before 
I left to run for the state legislature. I don't think f would have won, 
but I woidd have come close. 

S: You say that was an ambition of yours? 

B: Yes, it was. I've been asked three times, but I've rejected them all. 
S: All in Wisconsin? 

B: No, a couple of times in Vermont. I would have lost all of those 
elections. I've had student interns and met quite a few students who 
have worked in state legislatures, and one of the things that many of 
them say when they come back after the first couple of weeks is, "1 
could be a legislator." [Laughing] "1 know what those guys are like, 
right?" You realize it's the part-time nature of the legislature, f can 
empathize with those statements. In 1973, 1 decided to go to graduate 
school again. 

S: Where did you enroll this time? 

B: I went to Lehigh University in eastern Pennsylvania. 

S: And this was a doctoral program? 

B: Yes, that's correct, ft was an unusual program, funded by Carnegie 
Mellon. The idea was to have a rigorous doctoral program but one 
that focused on preparing college teachers as opposed to pure research- 
ers. But it was taught like a regular Ph.D. program, because all the 



The Mind s Eye 29 



Bob Bence 



instructors had been in Ph.D. programs, although they stuck in a few 
courses here and there, a few experiences that they hoped would make 
you a better teacher. And they paid attention to teaching. They had us 
be TAs most of the time, as well as take courses in psychology. 

S: Did you get into that program because you were still very much 
interested in being a teacher? 

B: At that point, I thought I would teach in community colleges, be- 
cause it seemed in the late '60s, early '70s that the most exciting teach- 
ing was happening at community colleges, places like Miami Dade. 
The community colleges were doing very innovative — almost radical 
by traditional standards — work with their students, a lot of experien- 
tial education, getting their students out into the field, a lot of creative 
uses of student-produced media. So I actually thought I would get this 
doctorate and get a job somewhere in a community college. But it 
didn't work out that way. 

S: What was the subject of your research at Lehigh? 

B: Well, much of it was on pedagogy. I looked at experiential educa- 
tion, and I did comparative studies of people doing internships or other 
kinds of experiential education in political science around the coun- 
try. So I got a chance to delve into behaviorialism and statistical analy- 
sis again. In a way, it was an interesting dissertation to do. It was pub- 
lishable, anyway. And it was good. It helped me understand what was 
going on around the academic community in the United States and I 
gained a sense of what political scientists were doing or not doing, 
which is more often the case. 

S: So you were looking at what different schools were doing in terms 
of internships, and what the outcomes were? 

B; Yes, I had control groups and examined whether experiential edu- 
cation makes much difference based on variables such as people's atti- 
tudes and knowledge base. And it was fun to do. 



30 The Mind's Eye 



Bob Bettce 



S: In terms of outcomes, were you looking at what students had done 
within a year of the internships? 

B: Yes, more what they knew than what they were doing, what they 
thought and particularly their attitudes toward politics, their attitudes 
toward being a participant in the political process, what kinds of educa- 
tional experiences they had. But there were so many variables it was 
hard to make definitive conclusions. It was somewhat inconclusive, since 
there are so many variables that predate a student's college experience. 
At that point, too, I was really interested in socialization. I had taken a 
short course in political socialization with a famous political scientist. 
Jack Dennis, up at Syracuse. 1 began experimenting with using a so- 
cialization autobiography in my courses at Lehigh. I still do that here 
occasionally, and I've published some research on that. 

S: That research was done around '73, '74. You could do a 25-year 
follow-up. 

B (laughing): That would be interesting. I do have quite a bit of informa- 
tion, and I still gather data. Students do a lot of self-assessments with 
some computer programs that I've used, but in the discipline itself, po- 
litical socialization is not a hot item anymore. It just became too un- 
manageable for people who like to crunch numbers and look at policy. 

S: But don't you use some of those ideas now with students at MCLA? 

B; Yes, that's right. I try to have students clarify their political beliefs — 
and everybody has political beliefs. 1 want them to think about and 
articulate them, and then work back and identify where those beliefs 
came from and how they are generated, how valuable they are, how 
they are related to their families and the media. That works out fairly 
well. An earlier statement 1 made was that no one develops ideas inde- 
pendently; students like to say they march to different, drummers and 
think for themselves and all of that. One of the purposes of education is to 
have students explore their connectedness to people and life experiences. 



The MindS Eye 31 



Bob Berne 



S; What are their reactions when they realize, "Aha! That's why I've got 
this idea"? 

B; Well, they often don't realize it. To soothe roe, satisfy me, they'll talk 
about all the sources of the thoughts they might have, how their father 
was important or what TV shows they watched, but then they often 
conclude by saying, "Well, now that I am an independent person, I can 
just go ahead and develop whatever ideas I want." But some students 
do understand the socialization process. Again, it's a matter of develop- 
ment, when people begin to make connections and see that they actu- 
ally are a product of society and will continue to be. 

S: Yes, it's interesting in getting students to understand that or to be able 
to conceptualize it. I wonder if that's developmental— that by the late 
teens or early 20s, some are better able to do that. It's a tricky kind 
of thing. 

B: Students, teenagers in this case, spend much of their time at least 
pretending they're developing autonomy from institutions, families, 
schools, churches, and so forth, even though most of that autonomy is 
sort of group based. They all wear the same uniforms, listen to the same 
music, all the time believing that they are independent people. So there 
has to be a step there where you get from the need to be autonomous 
and independent to accepting dependency and interconnect cdness — 
and understanding both the value and the burden of your past. 

S: And, in a paradoxical way, until you are able to see that, you might 
say you really can't become autonomous. 

B: That's true, that's true, absolutely. 

S: So people have to be able to say, "Yeah, OK, I behave that way be- 
cause of this," although they may not want to say that or think that, but 
that's the way it works. It's powerful stuff. 

B: And 1 think it really gets at the core of learning. 

Continued on page 51 



32 The Mind's Eye 



Art Notes 



Another Look at the Sea: 
Winslow Homer and 
Stephen Crane 

BY TONY GENGARELLY 

The array of paintings by Winslow Homer on display at the Ster- 
ling and Francine Clark An Institute is truly extraordinary. 
In fact, if one considers both watercolors and oils, as well as 
prints and drawings, the Institute's holdings represent virtually every 
phase of Homer's long and productive career. From this exceptional 
collection, I have been especially drawn to three of Homer's marine 
paintings— Undertow (1886); Eastern Point, Pnmfs Neck (1900); West 
Point. Front's Neck ( 1 900)— since they are linked in my mind with the 
classic short story by Stephen {Sane "The Open Boat." Crane's com- 
pelling narrative, written in 1897, is a remarkable companion to these 
paintings and helps us see them in the context of a late-19th-ccntury 
effort to come to terms with shilling perceptions of social reality and 
philosophical truth. Gone is the pastoral retreat of an earlier agrarian 
republic and the comfortable position people enjoyed in the landscapes 
of the Hudson River School. By 1880 the garden landscape had been 
markedly transformed by the machine, and an urban-industrial soci- 
ety was searching for new ways to approach a more complex and im- 
personal world. In response to these developments, Homer and Crane 

The Mind's Eye 31 



Tony Geng&rtUy 




Figure 1: Winslow Homer (American, 1836-1910) 
Undertow, 1886 
Oil on canvas 

Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown. MA 




Figure 2: Winslow Homer 

Eastern Point, Prout'.K Neck, 1900 
Oil on canvds 

Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA 



34 The Mind's Eye 



Tony Gengareliy 




Figure 3: Win slow Homer 

West Point, Prout's Neck, 1900 
Oil on canvas 

Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA 



Figure 4: Winslow Homer 

A Light on the Sea, 1897 
Oil on canvas 

Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 



'The Mind's Eye 35 



Tony Cengarelly 



looked to the great metaphor of the sea to explore the uncertain social 
and philosophical situation of their day. 

Considering Homer's 1886 masterpiece Undertow (fig, 1), we see 
four bodies intertwined during a rescue operation, human strength 
matched against the power of the sea. Homer did a number of other 
rescue pictures in the 1880s, and the Clark has an etching ol one of 
the most noteworthy of these. Life Line (1884 — the print room also 
contains the Homer watercolor Perils of the Sea, 1 881). The artist at this 
juncture in his life was drawn to the struggle between human beings 
and the indomitable power of nature. In Undertow he shows people 
locked in an embrace of humanity while they battle the raging surf, 
the artist's interpretation of a contemporary romantic naturalism that 
found community in the midst of a Darwinian clforl to survive. In 
"The Open Boat," Crane, in similar fashion, presents us with a situa- 
tion where four men, adrift in a lifeboat, bond in a common effort to 
gain the shore, which remains for most ol the story just out of reach. 
As they battle the "snarling" waves relentlessly assaulting their fragile 
craft, the author remarks, "It would be difficult to describe the subtle 
brotherhood of men that was here established on the seas" (Crane 
231). Like the two nearly drowned women in Undertow, three of the 
men eventually survive their ordeal, escape the seemingly malevolent 
power of the ocean. But for Crane this is not the last word about the 
sea and humanity, nor is Horner satisfied to leave the pounding surf 
with his rescue pictures of the '80s. 

Having moved to Front's Neck, Maine, in 1883, Homer spent the 
next ten years studying the rocks and surf just beyond his studio porch. 
The great marine paintings of the 1890s attest to his powers of obser- 
vation. The Clark has one of these, Sunset Saco Bay, 1896, But this 
picture, with its conventional fisherwomen, does not really show us 
Homer's contemplation of the larger battle raging between the sea 
and the land, nor docs i( penetrate to the artisi's vision of an eternal 
natural world and humanity's place in it. The other marine paintings 
of the 1890s suggest elements of Homer's quest, but the sea remains 
an impenetrable mystery. Crane, in "The Open Boat," likewise is reach- 
ing lor an understanding ol limitless nature as he poses his protago- 
nists on the sea's edge in the final lines of his narrative; "When it came 



36 The Minds Eye 



Tony GengareUy 



night, the white waves paced to and fro in the moonlight, and the 
wind brought the sound ot the great sea's voice to the men on the 
shore, and they felt that they could then be interpreters" (256). Inter- 
preters of what? Presumably the message out of the sea. But what is 
the content of that message? 

I think this question is answered, at least in part, by looking care- 
fully at Eastern Point, Prout's Neck (fig. 2) and West Point, Prout's Neck 
(fig. 3). Homer completed these paintings in the fall of 1900 and they 
detail the seacoast located near his studio in Maine. The product of 
years of meditating on the ocean in fair weather and stormy gales, 
these pictures seem to demonstrate Homer's understanding about the 
essence of nature and the place of humanity in an evolving universe. 
In an almost prescient manner, Crane's descriptive passages in "The 
Open Boat" both anticipate and amplify the interpretation of these 
two exceptional marine paintings. 

At the beginning of the second section of his narrative. Crane, 
with a quick stroke, paints a detached picture of the rampant sea. 
Gone are his prior allusions to a hostile or coldly indifferent nature as 
the author contemplates the sheer power and beauty of the ocean: "It 
was probably glorious, this play of the free sea, wild with lights of 
emerald and white and amber" (228). This description certainly re- 
calls Eastern Point. Prout 's Neck, Homer's 1 900 painting ol a northeaster. 
"Wild with lights of emerald and white and amber," the wind-driven 
surf pounds the rocky headland just southeast of Homer's studio. The 
storm surges with a primal creative energy, and as the waves attack 
the shore, they also deposit evidence of the ocean's generative power, 
the kelp and seaweed nestled against the foreground rocks. In this 
picture Homer displays nature's creative lorce, which, irrespective of 
human presence, wears away the land and, in that erosion, shapes 
and molds — rejuvenates — the planet. This insight into Homer's work 
may very well be present in Crane's awe of "this play of the free sea," 
the unrelenting power of nature that can be, paradoxically, a creative 
as well as destructive force. 

Crane initiates the fifth part of his story with another compelling 
image of nature: 

As darkness settled finally, the shine of the light, lifting from 



The Mind's Eye 37 



Tony Gengardly 



the sea in the south, changed to full gold. On the northern 
horizon a new light appeared, a small bluish gleam on the 
edge of the waters. These two lights were the furniture of the 
world. Otherwise there was nothing but waves, (243) 

And, again, at the onset of part seven, he relates: 

When the correspondent again opened his eyes, the sea and 
the sky were each of the gray hue of the dawning. Later, car- 
mine and gold was painted upon the waters. The morning 
appeared finally, in its splendor, with a sky of pure blue, and 
the sunlight flamed on the tips of the waves. (250) 

Between these two beautiful descriptions of the dusk and the dawn. 
Crane's four characters have endured their night at sea: "A night on 
the sea in an open boat is a long night" (243). Inside each of these 
portraits of nature, their experience is implied. The reader senses their 
unassuming presence within the "furniture of the world." 

Homer's other Clark marine painting from the fall of 1900. West 
Point, Front's Neck, provides a similar sense of the refationship of hu- 
manity to nature. In this extraordinary seascape, a magnificent sun- 
set with its brilliant hues of crimson and viotet hangs over Saco Bay, 
its light reverberating on the water and reflected in an imposing burst 
of spray curling up in the foreground. Homer claims to have done this 
picture "15 minutes after sunset — not one minute before — " in order 
to catch the "brilliant glow of cofor" lighting the edge of the clouds 
before "the sun has got bey ond their immediate ra nge" ( Stebbins 3 38 ) . 
Yet, when compared with an earlier rendition by the artist, this appar- 
ently pure seascape may very well contain a suggestion of humanity's 
place within a vast and changing cosmos. 

In 1 897 Homer painted A Light on the Sea (fig. 4) from virtually the 
same location as West Point, which looks out to Checkley Point over 
Saco Bay. In this version, Homer posed a woman on the rocks, her 
sinewy form set against a beautifully illuminated sea. In A New World 
(Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 1983), Carol Troyen has proposed that 
the woman's figure in A Lighten the Sea has a marked similarity to the 
dramatic burst of ocean in West Point, Front's Neck: 



38 The Mind 's Eye 



Tony Cengarelfy 



For the solid, statuesque figure of the woman, Homer here 
[in West Point, Front's Neck] substitutes the shimmering, 
transparent cloud of spray, its sinuous contours echoing her 
curves, but appearing as ephemeral as she seems substantial. 
(Stebbins 339) 

If this is, indeed, a plausible interpretation, Homer has used his ma- 
rine sunset to convey a universal truth about the human condition. 
Just as Crane implies transient human experience in the context of 
beautiful natural scenery, so, too. Homer's human stand-in, with its 
"dissolving anthropomorphic shape, becomes a metaphor for mortal- 
ity set against the spectacular rhythms of nature" (Stebbins 339). Our 
time on this planet, it would appear, is but a fraction of a second when 
measured against a universal background. Given these assumptions, 
the unadulterated representations of the natural world manifested by 
author and artist add up to a deeper truth about the natural world and 
the tenuous position of humanity within its eternal unfolding. 

In Crane's straightforward natural descriptions and in Homer's 
pristine seascapes, nature is not cruel or indifferent, nor is it caring or 
beneficent — all human attributions. Nature simply is. It abides, cre- 
ates, destroys. And from this recognition ol nature's wildness comes a 
capacity to understand humankind's modest place within a paradoxi- 
cal universe, a shifting, multifaceted reality that holds both life and 
death for conscious beings who aspire to eternity but must embrace 
mortality. 

Works Cited 

Crane, Stephen. "The Open Boat." The Red Badge of Courage and Other 
Stories. Ed. Pascal Covid, Jr. New York: Penguin, 1 99 1 . 

Stebbins, Theodore E„ Jr., et al. A New World: Masterpieces of American 
Painting, 1760-1910. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1983. 



The MindS Eye 39 



Three Poems 

BY HILARY RUSSELL 



Putting In 

Taking out is another thing, but putting 

in down a steep bank in dry weather when two 

of you have to lower the boat with bow 

and stem lines, your paddles and your life 

vests already aboard, reminds me of 

a burial where the deceased had prohibited 

machinery. Standing on long boards for fear of cave-in, 

we lowered her with 50 feet of heavy manila rope. 

The setting up and the slow hand-over-hand 
lowering fascinated us, the circle of mourners, 
and we forgot her soul and our grief 
as we watched our friends crouch to feed the rope, 
which at last could have been tossed into the grave 
like boat line tossed as we climb down carefully 
and push off, wobbling into the current. 



40 The Mind's Eye 



Walking 



Walking home from anywhere should be as a robin's 
chirup, chirup, chirup — part of summer, 
as free and slow as an ambling four-year-old 
eating ice cream. Deer amble. Opossoms. 
The ancient trees have ambled away. 

A mile into the mountain woods, 

the distance into Abbey Lake, you keep the aluminum 

canoe under a green, grommeted tarp, good 

for camouflage more than weather. Pine needles 

have layered it, decayed to cotton canvas wood. 

But aluminum is aluminum and a rivet, a rivet. 

And this Adirondack pond and this boat 

you carried here in the '60s still rivets 

you, You get here somehow every year, every 

day. when the truth comes home— wet- sneakered, 

dirty, sheepish, tramped and paddled truth. 
"Acid dead" doesn't mean DEAD dead. It's like 
any odd medium, like mountain soil: laurels, scrub 
oaks, blueberries. But forget trout, unless 
you lime^ if you want truth flown in. 

You circle the pond, casting and casting, 
find fresh sticks on a beaver lodge, set a long, straight 
one in your boat, and glance behind at nothing 
but frighteningly clear water. You won't skunked 
be as you amble out, thanking the beaver. 



The Mind's Eye A\ 



Build a Fence 



Our next-door neighbor Martha commissioned 
her husband, an engineer, to build a split rail fence 

aiong our line. 
I helped, using his blue, auger-style posthole digger 
to bore along the string he'd stretched from iron 

corner post to post. 
When rock stopped me, I'd chunk-chunk-chunk 
with my red double-shovel-style digger 
and wrestle out the broken stone. 
Then we'd measure depth, thunk down the posts, 
slide in the rails, fill, level, plumb fill and tamp. 
Nice work in mild weather. 

Each spring our beautiful wives talk across: 
Martha trims her giant French lilacs; 
Jenny prunes her arching raspberries, 
Warming up, Martha rips out bittersweet; 
Jenny snaps blossoming rhubarb stalks. 
Kneeling and sometimes sitting cross-legged, 
they weed dayliUes, iris, phlox; nurse lupine, 
lavender, lemon balm, tarragon, potentilla. 
Mowing around the beds for ten years, I graze 
each bottom rail and bump each lichen-patched post, 
the way kids bump their pals, 
to see if everyone's still there. 



42 The Mind's Eye 



Herring Season 



BY ROBIN O'SULLIVAN 




wo days had lapsed after the ides of Marclt when I boarded a 
plane bound for Alaska to feel spring creep into the land of 
icebergs and polar bears. 



Flying west across America, I watched the sky from a porthole 
window, turning back my wristwatch one hour at a time. Fear rose 
inside me like a mist from the earth. 

I was trying to ignore the fact that f would be graduating from 
college soon. Paralyzed by complacency, I had no plans for my life 
after graduation. Streams of energy had frozen into a solid, icy bluck 
in my chest. I needed an Alaskan retreat to jolt me from the stagna- 
tion I fett myself slipping into during that prolonged winter. 

« ■ • 

When f landed in Sitka, Alaska, it was nearly midnight, and my 
oider sister, Sandra, greeted me at the airport, a one-terminal building 
guarded by a huge stuffed bear. Initially, I decided to visit Alaska 
more out of a longing to see my sister than because of an intrepid 
quest for thrills. 



The Mind's Eye 43 



Robin O Sullivan 



A year before, Sandra had moved away from our family's East 
Coast home to begin a year of community service with the Jesuit Vol- 
unteer Corps. She was stationed in Sitka, a seaside town in the shel- 
tered wateis of the Inside Passage, southeast Alaska's archipelago. 
Sandra was the fearless one in the family. 

Sitka lies on the western shore of Baranof Island. The wild coun- 
try of Tongass National Forest, the largest temperate rain forest in the 
world, hems Sitka in on three sides; the Pacific Ocean borders on the 
fourth side. High precipitation makes the town's climate mild year- 
round. There are no icebergs or dogsleds in Sitka, but the mystique 
attached to America's northernmost state kept me on the lookout for 
igloos. I saw only slate roofs on skinny wooden houses as we drove in 
darkness. 

I paused before opening my eyes the next morning, afraid that 
Alaska wouldn't live up to my expectations, f slipped out of my sleep- 
ing bag on the floor next to Sandra's bed and ran outside in bare feet. 
The sun kissed my forehead gently. I gaped at the steep mountains 
looming over me. 

Accustomed to the rolling hills of Vermont, I was in awe of the 
landscape's magnitude. Some of the mountains were rounded, dense 
with trees, and some were snowcapped, angular and rocky. The rug- 
ged coastline faced island -studded waters. I was convinced that f had 
landed in paradise. 

•''.'•■« 

Sandra and I packed salmon sandwiches for an afternoon bike 
ride. We rode seven miles east of town on Sawmill Creek Road. Across 
from an abandoned pulp mill, a gravel road maintained by the U.S. 
Forest Service forked left, and we ditched our bikes at the trailhead. 
We hiked up two miles to reach Blue Lake, a mountain reservoir that 
provides Sitka with fresh drinking water. 

To find the place where anything begins is to understand the raw 
purity of origins. I filled my water bottle in the icy lake and savored 
the unadulterated taste of Alaskan water. We picked out pieces of 
smooth driftwood from the edge of Blue Lake to take home as souve- 
nirs, reminders of a clean, unfiltered source of energy. 

That evening, we ate dinner at a restaurant overlooking the har- 
bor. Herring season was just beginning, and we watched the herring 



44 pie Mind's Eye 



Robin 'Sullivan 



boats glide back to the docks at sunset. During herring season, which 
lasts only a week, sometimes less, humpback whales move close to 
the rocky shoreline, feeding on the dense herring schools that come to 
Sitka Sound to spawn. Whales, sea lions and eagles must compete 
with boatloads of fishermen, who strip the egg sacs from the herring 
and sell them, making a fortune. The Japanese treasure raw herring 
roe as a New Year's delicacy and pay high prices for the eggs. I ordered 
herring fillets for dinner to taste what the whales eat. 

The largest marine mammal found in southeast Alaska, hump- 
back whales can measure up to 50 feet long and weigh up to 35 tons. 
When female humpbacks give birth every two or three years, their 
babies are born 16 feet long and can weigh two tons. Everything in 
Alaska seemed larger than life. 

Outside the restaurant. Main Street was lined with gift shops, craft 
stores and hotels, which flourish when summer cruise ships along the 
Alaskan coast bring 250,000 tourists to Sitka each year, The shop- 
keepers asked where 1 was visiting from and told stories about Sitka's 
history. 

The Tlingit Indians were the original inhabitants of Sitka. Alexander 
Baranof, governor of a Russian fur trading company, established Sitka 
as the Russian capital of Alaska in 1804, forcing the native people away 
from their settlement. In 1867, having lost interest in Sitka and its sea- 
otter pelts, Russia sold the entire region of Alaska to the United States 
for 7.2 million dollars. The Tlingits returned slowly and have since es- 
tablished a tribal government for Baranof Island natives. Sitka is now a 
unique blend of Tlingit culture and Russian history. 

• • 

Sandra took me to Aurora's Watch, the halfway house where she 
served as a recreation advisor for recovering alcoholic men. The build- 
ing was seedy, decrepit, half -painted, and I wondered how the men 
were able to fight for their dignity or rebuild their lives in the face of 
such desolation. 

It was movie night, so Sandra drove a van full of tough-looking 
young and middle-aged men, mostly Native Americans, to the dollar 
theater. Sandra's a fireball. The men couldn't help but adore her. They 
teased her about her driving skills, and she laughed along with them, 
genuine and confident, as they clamored for sodas and popcorn. 



The Mind's Eye 45 



Robin 'Sullivan 

Alcoholism is rampant in Sitka, mainly because poverty, unem- 
ployment and boredom are ubiquitous. Natives succumb to the dis- 
ease in high numbers, and the only explanation I have for this is that 
perhaps the Tlingit Indians arc still inwardly resisting the invasion of 
the whites, and alcohol is their last weapon of defiance against reality. 

Commercial fishermen and immigrants from the lower 48 states 
who are attracted by the island's beauty live peacefully with the Tlingit 
people in Sitka, each group learning to thrive on a transformed island. 
Sitka's population has grown to 9,000, though the town itself has not 
expanded physically beyond the confines of the aboriginal settlement. 

Natives have assimilated into mainstream Sitka, but there remains 
a sense of cosmic loss within the Tlingit community. The towering 
totem poles in a forest on the outskirts of town stand as a haunting 
testament to the nearly extinguished culture of the Tlingit people, the 
heartbeat of Sitka's history, now confined to a historical park and dis- 
played in local museums. Part of Sandra's job was to help the Native 
Alaskans find a sense of purpose and identity in modern-day Sitka, 
without relying on alcohol. 

We set out with our backpacks after breakfast on our second morn- 
ing. A ten-minute walk from downtown Sitka put us at the trailhead 
for Gavan Hill. Entering the ancient rain forest, we walked slowly, 
looking for signs thai would foretell the impending arrival of spring. 
The trail ascended three miles through muskeg, spruce and hemlock. 

The stately Sitka spruce can grow up to 200 feet tall. The branches 
have an upward sweep suggestive of rejoicing. Exceptionally light and 
strong, the wood from Sitka spruce is often used to make ladders, 
portable bleachers and crew racing shells, because it is capable of bear- 
ing human weight in great proportion to its own weight. The bark on 
the oldest spruce trees is deep purple or reddish brown, and I broke off 
a chip to carry with me, hoping the strength of the tree would be 
contagious. 

Baranof Island is home to only one species of brown bear, the grizzly, 
and the bear population is dense, with one axrhnal per square mile. Griz- 
zly bears are solitary and furtive, seldom seekiirg contact with humans, 
but Sandra warned us to make noise, to keep the bears, which may have 
been coming out of hibernation with growling stomachs, at bay. 



46 The Mind's Bye 



Robin 0' Sullivan 



I've always felt an affinity with bears. In fits of antisocial tenden- 
cies, I have often been tempted to hibernate as well, to seek refuge 
from the elements in a protected cave of my mind. It's easier to duck 
the punches of a season than to stand in the open air, exposed to the 
elements, at the risk of showing weakness. Hibernation, like stoicism, 
is a defense mechanism. Still, I was afraid of being lulled by the com- 
fort of a den, and I blessed my distasteful reaction to the recent numb- 
ing winter as a sign that there was still life in me. 

In the 50- degree weather, we were dressed in shorts and light 
shirts, so, at the summit of Gavan Hill, we were surprised to find that 
almost a foot of snow still covered the mountain, stubbornly refusing 
to melt. 

The crunch of snow beneath my feet when I was searching for the 
origin of spring gave me shivers. I was afraid of regression. Even so, I 
told myself, it's possible that snow is meant to preserve the energy of 
life (or a fragment of time so the land can give birth to beauty again. 
Before we bloom, we must stagnate for a season. The redeeming value 
of relapse is that it can give us the opportunity to start over. 

From the crest of Gavan Hill, we could see the Inside Passage as 
early Tlingit Indians and Russian explorers must have seen it. Sitka was 
built on a seaside sliver of Baranof Island, because the expanse of sur- 
rounding land, even today, is unsuitable for habitation. I wasn't, used to 
that much wilderness at once, to the sight of a glossy ocean speckled 
with pristine islands or to the proximity of impenetrable forests. 

I resisted when we turned to hike back down the mountain, cling- 
ing to the apex of our afternoon, but, sadly, one cannot stay on the 
summit forever. Reluctantly, I followed my older sister's footsteps, as 
I had attempted to do so many times in my youth, returning to level 
ground. I was comforted by the knowledge that down below, though 
one can no longeT savor the view, one can at least still remember it, 
carrying the knowledge of indefinite possibilities. Ultimately, we all 
leave home so we can return someday with the tools to mend what is 
rotting in our former lives. 

• « • 

On my fourth day in Sitka, we prepared for an overnight sea- 
kayaking trip. We drove seven miles west on Halibut Point Road until 
we reached Starrigavan Campground, the end of town, where we 



The Mind's Eye Zl 



Robin O 'Sullivan 



wrapped our gear in plastic, stuffed it beneath the shells and launched 
our kayaks. Sandra's friend. Rick, was serving as our guide for the trip. 
Rick took his own kayak while Sandra and I shared another, falling 
into a rhythm of splashing water and burning muscles. Nearby islands 
seemed suddenly remote when measured by our ineffective strokes. 

Across Sitka Sound, visible from almost any point in town, lies 
Mount Edgecumbe, an extinct volcano. The original blast of Mount 
Edgecumbe shook Baranof Island when glaciers from the Ice Age 
were retreating. The eruption covered the coastline of Sitka with 20 
feet of ash. It was during the following centuries that the Tlingit 
Indians moved into the area, settling on lire land abandoned by 
receding glaciers. 

We were planning to camp out at the base of Mount Edgecumbe, 
so we headed west across the bay. Sitka's waters are home to sea ot- 
ters, sea lions, porpoises, harbor seals and, of course, humpback whales. 
Seabirds like the tufted puffin and rhinoceros auklet feed on salmon, 
herring and halibut in Sitka Sound. The water was calm and mysteri- 
ous as we rowed, but 1 wondered what lurked beneath our lonely 
kayaks. Security, like the calm sea, is an illusion. 

A loud tooting of air, the sound of a wet horn, interrupted us, and 
suddenly, a hundred yards in front of our kayaks, a humpback whafe 
spouted a perfect stream of air and water. A flip of the tail, a gentle 
splash and it was gone beneath the surface again. We stopped pad- 
dling and waited anxiously. A few minutes later, three whales spouted 
at once, 200 yards to the east. We turned our kayaks and followed 
these three, watching them dive together playfully in the open ocean. 
We tracked the whales farther into unprotected waterways, where 
the waves became choppy and the wind spun on my forehead. The 
thrill of sea kayaking intoxicated me, and I found myself addicted to 
the glimpse of a splashing gray tail. 

I wondered how often we are unaware of what swims beneath us 
in the quiet sea; what powerful beings share our world, waiting to 
emerge; what strong potential lies unseen within us until we tune in 
to the quiet rhythm of our hearts. Sometimes change, like spring, just 
needs an invitation. 



48 The MindS Eye 



Robin 0' Sullivan 



We found ourselves too far from Mount Edgecumbe to camp there 
that night, so Rick suggested we alter our course and head for the 
Siganaka Islands. Weaving in and out oi the rocky shorelines, we saw 
a school of spawning herring, which seemed tiny and hardly capable 
of satisfying the huge hungry mouths of the humpbacks. 

Passing through a narrow inlet in late afternoon, I spotted a bald 
eagle, deliberately swooping down for prey from the spruce trees above. 
To confront a wild animal in its own territory is to be humbled by the 
simplicity in which most species live. Humans alone have withdrawn 
from the cycle of subsistence on which other animals rely. In a way, 
we arc no longer related to primitive man, who, like the eagle, killed 
only what he could eat and share with his family. 

We noticed something bobbing in the sunny water ahead, and, 
paddling closer, we realized that it was a cluster of sea fions. Wary of 
our kayaks, they began barking and growling at us, poking their heads 
high above water to threaten us or rolling and diving beneath the 
water. One sea lion flipped over and stuck its fin above the surface, 
trying to scare us with an imitation of a shark. We waited for the 
group to move off, then pulled our kayaks high upshore on an un- 
named island of the Siganakas. Another group of comical sea lions 
entertained us as we unloaded our gear. 

Rick pitched our tents on a mossy cliff, and as the sun plunged 
into the Pacific, we gathered dry wood for a fire. We made chairs from 
semiflat rocks on the shore and huddled around the flames as the 
evening chill set in. We cooked dinner, roasted marshmallows over 
the fire until it died out, then scrambled to our tents. The frigid air 
kept me awake, and throughout the night I heard the sea lions splash- 
ing in the water below. 

I rose with the sun, restless, and tried to explore the dense rain 
forest, but the tangled branches were too thick to penetrate. Growing 
sleepy again, I stretched out on a log near the kayaks, absorbing the 
peace of that idyllic land. 

I lost track of time. As I drifted in and out of consciousness, I heard 
twigs crackling in the forest and, though I couldn't discern a dark shape 
or a pair of eyes, something told me a grizzly bear was nearby. I lelt 



The Mind's Eye 4$ 



Robin 'Sullivan 



the icy blocks in ray chest begin to shift and vibrate. Silently, I invited 
the bear to show his face. He never emerged. Hours slipped by, and I 
realized, gradually, that the vapors of fear inside me had dissolved into 
the Alaskan sky. 

It was the first day of spring. During the vernal equinox, the earth 
is straight on its axis, and the world is as it should be: 12 hours of 
darkness, 12 hours of daylight, everything in balance. Although the 
shift in seasons is gradual, the change in my mentality was abrupt. In 
the springtime, I could let my guard down, with the spirit of resurrec- 
tion and the promise of a savior. Resilience, ultimately, is what makes 
us human. 

Perhaps it was just a black- tailed deer hiding beneath the shady trees 
on that island. But I wasn't afraid of grizzly bears, and I realized that I 
shouldn't be paralyzed with anxiety about leaving college. Like the Tlingits, 
I would learn to adjust; like my sister, I would build a new life. 

Suddenly, I didn't know how to quell the stirring inside me. Maybe 
S just needed to see the seasons change in new countryside, to assure 
myself that wherever I went after graduation, enticing opportunities 
would beckon. 

By the time I boarded the plane again to fly back East, I had ad- 
mitted to myself that I needed to start planning for my future. The 
first step was embracing the unknown, believing in the glimmer of a 
lile that I was just beginning to fathom. The wilderness in my soul was 
much deeper than all the uncharted land in Alaska. I had so much to 
learn about fear — and about being brave. 

Sitka restored my faith in ideals. It is during those times when one 
feels free, in the backcountry and beyond, that the pull of adventure is 
strongest, calling us to drift beyond the placid bay toward the distant 
splash of a humpback whafe on the horizon. 



50 The Mind's Eye 



Bob Bence 



Continued from page 32 

S: Now, when did you start at North Adams State? 
B: I was a bicentennial appointment, 1976. 

S: OK, 1976. Why would you remember that? And you came from 
Lehigh directly here? 

B: No, I had one intervening job. I spent a year at a private school in 
suburban Chicago. 

S: At a college? 

B: Yes. It was a great experience. Somewhat like the school we are 
trying to become, sort of a liberal arts/performing arts kind of school. 
I got to go to the opera and experience all kinds of cultural activities, 
ones no one even knew existed back home in Punxsutawney, 

S: And this was just outside Chicago? 

B: Just west of Chicago. 

S: What brought you here? 

B: Well, I had never been in New England, and the job I had in Chi- 
cago was only a one-year appointment. By that lime, jobs had become 
more difficult to find, and so I had to find someplace to work. I took 
the train to New England and was met by then department chair John 
McNulty, who has since died. What a magnificent impression North 
Adams makes, especially if the sun's shining [laughing]. It looked like 
a great place to live! 1 went on the assumption that most students 
were the same and that most courses were similar, and there's some 
truth to that, and so we moved here. 



S: When I met you. in the fall of '78, 1 remember you were just corn- 




develop? 



The Mind's Eye 51 



Bob Bence 



B: Back at West Virginia, I had taken a couple of exciting courses in 
African studies. I think I had a latent interest in Africa. And, as I said 
before, I had an interest in foreign policy and government, as well as 
my eternal search for various edges, geographic edges of the world, 
intellectual edges, although an edge for me may not be quite as dis- 
tinct as it is for other people. Then, in 1978, f found that an organiza- 
tion was looking for group leaders for work projects, an organization 
called Crossroads Africa, a model for the Peace Corps. So 1 went to 
suburban New York and had a wonderful weekend interview at a Giri 
Scout camp in Westchester County, f was accepted into the program 
and took a group, primarily students, to Sudan. It was a very powerful 
experience, going from the richest country to basically the poorest. It's 
just a simplified life, stripped of the superficial, down to the basics, 
and seeing people who have nothing being just wonderful, wonderful 
people. That stayed with me more than any other travel experience. 

S: And then you did some teaching on Africa here? 

B: Yes, I did some teaching, t had a little bit of formal training and did 
a lot of reading, The person I replaced here in political science had 
taught a course on Africa, so it was "on the books." There was no 
Africanist here at the time, so I offered an introductory course in Afri- 
can Politics, which I have since broadened to make it more of an inter- 
disciplinary cross-cultural course. 

S: I know that you are very interested in Canada and have taught 
many courses on Canada. How did that get started? 

B: Looking at it developmentally, my father took me fishing in north- 
em Ontario when I was 1 J and I was really intrigued by a bilingual 
soup-can label [laughing], as well as the obvious cultural diversity. 

S: It wasn't that three-volume history of Canada that did it, huh? 

B; No. You come here to New England, you go to Montreal and realize 
how close this foreign country is. Then one day in the maif I received 



52 The Mind's Eye 



Bob Brace 



a brochure from the Canadian embassy in the United States, looking 
to fund American scholars who might want to develop courses about. 
Canada, So I applied, got a ton of money and went to all kinds of 
workshops and institutes, traveled, interviewing Canadians, and even- 
tually created a course on Canadian politics. 

S: When was that? 

B; I believe '85 or '86. 

S: So you've been going full scale on that for 14 years now? 

B: Yes, and it just continues to grow. It's been great. Another country 
that's so near you can take students to visit. Its history looks vaguely 
fa miliar,' because it is so intertwined with the United States, but when 
you turn the corner, it's quite different. 

S: How do students react to Canada? 

B; I suppose the way most Americans do. It's a big, cold place, with 
beer and hockey, which doesn't have a great deal of relevance to their 
lives. But in our Canadian courses, almost every student has said, "Wow, 
Canada's really something." They really like it. I think they also buy 
the argument that with the 1988 Free Trade Agreement and the 1993 
North American Free Trade Agreement,Canada's going to be part of 
their existence financially in one way or another. 

S: How do they take to the Canadian political parties and the parlia- 
mentary system? 

B; That confuses them. Parliaments in general confuse Americans. 1 
think they are always a bit shocked by the diversity in Canadian par- 
ties, a right-wing party and a left-wing party as opposed to the more 
homogeneous centrist parties of the United States. In general, 1 be- 
lieve what they react to in Canada is the collective idealism as opposed 
to the individualism that exists in the U.S., and that reaction plays out 



The Mind's Eye 51 



Bob Bmce 



when they look at parliament — "What do you mean, legislators can't 
vole the way they want to vote on legislation? What's this socialist 
party about? Why are all the political parties in Canada receptive to a 
national health-care system?" They seem upset with the lack of choice 
in the U.S, but I think that is a common American reaction to Cana- 
dian institutions in general. 

S: It sounds like your students get to see those values not just as some- 
thing that is grafted on but that percolates throughout Canadian insti- 
tutions and society. 

B; We talk to Canadians via the Internet or in person. Last semester, 
we went to Ottawa and talked to representatives of political parties, 
and this summer we had a Comparative North American Cultures 
course and one of the instructors was a Canadian. He said one of the 
reasons he liked being a Canadian is that he has the opportunity to be 
asodalist [laughing]. Students really picked up on that comment (they 
had to keep notes on portfolios) and they all said, "Well, it's amazing, 
Richard is really happy to be in Canada because he can call himself a 
socialist." Again, that was just one comment out of thousands of words, 
but it's the theme that generally ran through all of them. 

S; It sounds like you do a lot of work with students in the field, meet- 
ing people, going to Canada. . . . 

B; Yes! I finally found a way to build in all the things I like about educa- 
tion, developmental things, exposing people to new cultures, experien- 
tial, travel, and I have this country right next door. We can go four and 
a half hours and drop the students off someplace where basically only 
French is spoken, Or we can go another three hours and be in bilingual 
Canada, or see aboriginal groups, ft works out quite well and Canadians 
will challenge Americans, One of my Internet courses was linked with 
Canada and the Canadian students were pretty anti-American. Stu- 
dents were shocked. Most of my students never have to deal with that 
on a personal level. The Canadians were biased and extremely critical. 



54 The Mind's Eye 



Bob Bence 



$: What was their critique about Americans? 

B: Health care! American militarism, individualism, all the "isms." 
Arrogance in general. 

S: Did our students get defensive? 

B: No, I'm real pleased, they did not get defensive. They were puzzled, 
and they also wanted to be nice to Canadians and people in other 
countries. My students are really pretty nice people. In general, they 
want to be liked, they want to treat other people well. 

S: In critiquing our health-care policies, would our students begin to 
question why we don't have a health-care system, that sort of thing? 

B: I think there's more of a fatalism, a feeling that this is the way it has 
to be, there's not much that can be done. Fatalism is sometimes over- 
riding and controls the terms of how people view those issues on a 
personal level. So a student might say, "Canada has national health 
care where youjust walk in and pay two dollars orpay nothing. Yeah, 
that's really nice. I understand it, but what relevance does that have 
to the United States, where nothing like that would ever happen?" 
The ideological boundaries that exist in society are pretty confining. 
One of the reasons I like to play around with political ideas is based on 
the concept that beliefs build boundaries like ships in a bottle, and our 
policies are in a bottle. You begin youl education working in your 
own bottle, and someday hopefully realize what a small bottle you are 
in and how your belief system restricts you. 

S: Yes. And Canada would be such a good place to do it, because in so 
many ways it is similar to the U.S., basically English speaking, shares 
North America. But couldn't a student say, "Wait a minute, they have 
this health -care system. We don't. Why can't we?" Wouldn't some 
push it a little bit more? Do you think it's more the power of American 
ideology than student fatalism? 



The Mind's Eye 55 



Bab Bmce 



B: Yes, fatalism may be the wrong word, but fatalism may be the end 
product. 

S: Do you see a difference between the students you taught in the '80s 
and '90s and the students you worked with in the '60s and '70s, as to 
what can be done and what can't be done? 

B: Yes, sure, there is a generational aspect, certainly. I think Ameri- 
cans at this point have disassociated the economy so much from poli- 
tics — a fairly consistent theme throughout U.S. history, but it seems to 
be more so now than it was in the '60s, so to look for political solu- 
tions in the '90s seems more unnatural than it did back then. Vietnam 
had a lot of economic implications for individuals. What should I be 
doing with my life? Shoufd 1 be working or going to school? So, yes, 
in that way, the societal context is different now. I think historical 
context matters a lot, and so students were more political in the '60s, 
but everybody was more political — you almost had to be in that era. 
Now there aren't many options. If you fook around campus, not just 
our campus but any campus, where are the active groups? Even main- 
line groups, Young Republicans, Young Democrats, don't exist. Politi- 
cal parties operate on an elite level in the United States, media based, 
money driven, as opposed to grass-roots parties. I don't think there's 
anything wrong with students today, they just got stuck with a tough 
context, a tough era as far as politics go. 

S: Another question on Canada. I know you've been developing and 
continue to develop on the Internet some kind of connection with Ca- 
nadian students. Can you say how that got started and how it's going? 

B: Once we got wired on campus, the department had a strong peda- 
gogical goal that students be linked with other countries. I just started 
submitting random inquiries over the Internet — anybody out there 
interested in working on some kind of vague project that might link 
Canadian and U.S. students? So this person at the University of 
Brunswick said yes, and we talked a long lime, wrote quite a bit and 
worked out an experimental project. He had a course in Canadian 



56 The Mind's Eye 



Bob Bence 



Identity, and I assembled some students interested in Quebec issues, 
and they started exchanging information. That group, while it was in 
progress, drew in other people, including some of their parents, and 
we had some enlightening discussions. I actually met this guy after we 
bad completed the courses. I drove to the University of Brunswick to 
see him, and we are now very close friends. He's the person who co- 
taught the North American Cultures course. We've delivered papers 
at conferences together. He is now back home in Montreal as a doc- 
toral student and teaches courses at various universities. Then I re- 
ceived some money from the government of Canada a couple of years 
ago that led to my team-teaching a course with a professor in British 
Columbia. So we linked that way. He and I are doing a video confer- 
ence course this fall. It takes a lot of work. Just using the Internet per 
se doesn't mean a great deal unless there is some purpose to it. And it 
requires a bit of structure, quite a bit of structure. But it's quite good. 
(Problems occur, just like with normal courses, such as assignments 
turned in late, but they are magnified tenfold when you are linking 
students with others via the Internet.) I have had students in my courses 
who have been linked with students in other countries who have be- 
come friends with those people and actually have gone to visit them 
in faraway places like Saskatchewan. 

S: You mentioned receiving a grant from the Canadian government. 
What kind of support are you getting from our college and the U.S. 
government in terms of Canadian relations? 

B: Technically, I get wonderful support here from the Computer Sci- 
ence people. They have helped me construct a bulletin board and Web 
pages. I couldn't begin to do that without their help. In general, the 
college administration has been supportive as well. The Canadian gov- 
ernment has given me a couple of grants that have allowed me to 
travel to British Columbia twice and to Canadian political science con- 
ferences. While the Internet is good, you really need to talk face-to- 
face with these people eventually. And that's what I'd like to do with 
students, too, make electronic contact and then actually go there or 
have them come here, or both— meet these people in real life. 



The Mind's Eye 57 



Bob Bence 



S: Does the U.S. government or U.S. foundations spend much money 
funding these kinds of things? Is it a two-way street, to support aca- 
demic work and enable American students to get to know Canadians? 

B: No, not that I know of. No. Canada is also a bit special and gets 
taken for granted, often viewed as an extension of the United States. 

S: Which kind of supports these Canadian students' being upset about 
our arrogance. 

B: There's only one government in the world that spends more money 
[than Canada] promoting understanding of its culture, and that's Ger- 
many. The United States doesn't worry about promoting understand- 
ing, or culture. They just do a few things through embassies and the 
Voice of America. 

S: Your Canadian work is fascinating. You get to understand your own 
country more just by doing these things. 

B: Absolutely, and part of this process is understanding yourself as 
well as understanding your country. Of course, not all of us do that. 
Seldom do we ask. Who are we, what are we doing? 

S: You also teach a Vietnam course. 

B; I've taught that course twice, simply because students have asked 
for it. The course focuses primarily on the United Stales during the 
Vietnam war, so that while we do a little bit of history about Vietnam, 
primarily it focuses on the U.S., why we were there, and the effects of 
that war on the U.S. I don't do as much justice to the whole Viet- 
nam-U.S. experience as I would like, but that course has proven to 
be extremely popular in large part because the parents of our cur- 
rent students are of that Vietnam generation. Last semester was the 
second time I'd taught it and I think people learned things, but it was 
also a powerful emotional experience, something I rarely have in 



5S, The Mind's Eye 



Bob Bence 



courses. Students brought in videotapes of interviews they had done 
of their parents, even their grandparents. I had a couple of Vietnam 
vets in, one who had never spoken publicly about his experience in 
the war, and that turned out to be more emotional than we ever 
thought it would be. For students, it was like a catharsis. Even if stu- 
dents' parents weren't involved directly in the Vietnam war, some of 
them protested, went to Woodstock. All of them were aware in one 
way or another. Students said it was one of the best courses they had. 
I don't think it's a great course in terms of what people learn, but 
achieving a congruence of feeling and knowledge made it an extremely 
important semester for most of them. 

S: And is it your intention to teach that course every once in a while? 

B: Yes, I guess every couple of years I'll probably do it. In two years we 
can do a course on the Gull War. It's good for me, too. I don't con- 
sciously try to make the course personal. I talk very little about my 
military experience, but it is, personally, in a very secretive way, sort 
of fun for me to look at that stuff and view some of the old film clips. 
I guess we are more reflective now. There's more reflective writing by 
Vietnam soldiers, We have a lot more soldiers from the Vietnam era 
writing poetry, reflective pieces, more psychological studies. 

S: Have you ever tried to count up the number of different courses 
you have taught? 

B: I did once. It's in the 20s. I even taught a course on the Middle East 
one semester. It's one of the wonderful things about college teaching, 
you can experiment with courses. Sometimes you need to experiment, 
because we don't have all the faculty we need to offer everything. 
As long as you do that in a fairly student/faculty cooperative kind 
of way, a nonpretentious kind of way, 1 don't think it is too academi- 
cally illegitimate. 

S: So that's the upside of being the only political scientist on campus? 



The Mind's Eye 59 



Bob Berne 



B: Correct! And political scientists, by and large, aren't a very exciting 
bunch of people, anyway [laughing], so it's just as well. That's the great 
thing about going to Canadian studies conferences. They're more eclec- 
tic, lots of people teach literature and art, and they have more fun 
with ideas than Americans. 

S; As opposed to American political scientists? 

B: Yes. I have stopped telling people I am one. They are extremely 
competitive and they've also forgotten what politics are about. The 
discipline is not about power anymore; it's more into management 
and policy analysis now. It's unfortunate what has happened to politi- 
cal science in the United States. Political scientists have always struggled 
to fit in, to be associated with prelaw, for example. I think also that 
political science is like one of those glass bottles, too self-enclosed, too 
discipline bound. 

S: What would you say has been the best course you've ever taught? 
You could have a tie! 

B {laughing): Well, one doesn't stand out. The Vietnam course, as we 
discussed, was rewarding for me in the sense of how much students 
were in touch with things that happened in class. Canadian courses 
that involved travel were extremely rewarding for me. So 1 suppose 
those are my best courses. I never think so much in terms of best 
courses. I've rarely been disappointed in any of them, although I am 
never quite certain how much one accomplishes in teaching or the 
impact on students. But it is rewarding for me. 

S: In terms of teaching and the age difference between you and your 
students, [ know you've got a daughter who's beyond college now, 
and a son who's approaching that age. Was that helpful in terms of 
relating to your kids and understanding what they're going through, 
and also what our students are going through? 

B: Does being a teacher help in being a parent? 



60 The Mind's Bye 



Bob Bence 



S: Yes, that, and does being a parent help in being a teacher? I hadn't 
thought about, it both ways. 

B: Well, I think being a teacher at a university does help in being a 
parent. My daughter, who is now 30, told me a few years ago that she 
worried about me, that I might not be seeking enough challenges in 
life, that I might be stagnating. While she provided no evidence, she 
made me think about my career. And I did go to Africa again, i think 
that's one of the advantages of being at a university or college. Being 
around students is invigorating and sort of forces you to deal with the 
world. I suppose you could hide. College teaching helps me with my 
son. I can be a bit more cool than I might be normally, which is really 
important to him during these adolescent years, to have parents with 
some kind of coolness. I've brought all of my children to classes off and 
on, mainly because they had no place else to be. 1 think it's been quite 
good for them. And I've always taken my kids, when I could, on field 
trips, and I think it's been good for both the students and my children. 

S: I don't know how you plan for the future and such, but do you 
have any particular goals that you might want to accomplish, say in 
the next five years? 

B: No, what I want of myself and what I want of my students are ways 
to grow and develop challenges, wherever that may take us. And I 
want to teach the same courses and some different courses in new and 
exciting kinds of ways as much as I can. f want to check out the new 
technologies, although I do basically have a sort of Luddite streak in 
me about technology, 

S: Looking back on your career, if you had to do anything differently, 
what comes to mind? Sounds like you've really enjoyed your career. 

B: Yes, I think 1 would have smelled the roses and paid a little more 
attention to things that were happening and made some connections 
between my studies and my life. I sometimes chastise students for not 
taking advantage of all the opportunities that they now have in their 



The Mind's Eye 6\ 



Bob Bence 



lives. It would have been nice if I had done that when I was younger. 

S: You've talked a lot about the way in which you teach and the areas 
that you are interested in, including research. One of the important 
things about being a state college teacher is service to the community, 
and connections with the community. I know you are involved in 
that. I wonder if you can tell us about what you have done and give 
us a sense of how that service operates. 

B: One regret I have is that 1 haven't been as active in the community 
as I think I should have been. I've done interviews, commentary on 
elections, but that never seemed like service so much, it was just fun 
to do. [Laughs] You get to talk about politics and walk away! 

S {laughing): And you still have your job! 

B: That's right, there was no tenure process, no committee on promo- 
tions making decisions on the quality of your comments! But what I 
wish I'd done more of was work one on one with children, serving 
more as a "big brother." I've done some basketball coaching, girls' bas- 
ketball coaching, I've served on the school board in my hometown, 
and when I lived in North Adams, I served on an advisory panel for 
federal funding. I'm currently chair of the local Democratic Party. I'm 
involved and actualiy got to vote for the Vermont electors in the last 
Presidential election. Twelve people and myself chose the electors. 

S: Was your name actually on the ballot? 

B: No, no, I only voted for others. I've often wondered how that was 
done and just wanted to see the process. ! look at other people who 
do a much better job than I do at community service and 1 think, in a 
way, reflecting on the five-year pfans you mentioned before, that is 
one of the things I need to work on. I've done quite a bit, but it never 
seemed like much. 

S: Well, I was thinking not so much in that direction, I was thinking 
more in terms of working with students to do internships and things. 



62 The Mind's Eye 



Bob Bcnce 



B: Oh! Oh, I see! Yes! Certainly, one of the reasons I wanted to come 
to North Adams State College back in '76 was that I could set up an 
internship program in the department, although there was one in place 
already, but I did devote some effort to building the program. And I 
try to promote internships as much as possible. Unfortunately, it's kind 
of a hip -pocket operation because of resources and the kinds of courses 
being taught, I've worked with Myles Whitney on a service learning 
grant, which J think is a worthwhile idea, and currently have a coupie 
of students who_are involved in that. But that's part of the five-year 
plan, too, to get more people. We've had a lot of interns over the 
years and I basically tell students, freshman students, that they should 
be doing something like that, and that we could find them an intern- 
ship anyplace in the world. We've had interns overseas, one of whom 
refused to come back! Actually decided to finish his studies in London. 

S: But are there a significant number of students who do work in 
northern Berkshire? 

B: Yes, not only here but in places such as Washington, D.C. We've 
had people work for public defenders, a Senator's office in Washing- 
ton, the Congress, Boston, the State House in Albany and a lot of local 
government/local history kinds of inteinships. Those are extremely 
valuable. That is one way that we could distinguish ourselves better, 
devoting a little more attention to our internship program at the col- 
lege. I'm a believer in internships. 

S: Yes, and that goes back to your graduate work. 

B: One of the positions that f turned down was going back to West 
Virginia to manage, coordinate and direct a public administration 
program. They offered me the job, although I never had a course in 
public administration. They liked my ideas. But I found budgeting 
extremely dull. 

S: You mentioned, when we talked about the Canada courses, that 
students sometimes had a sense that not much in this country could 



The MindS Eye 61 



Bob Bence 



be changed. When you talk to your students about the future, do they 
talk at all about heroes they have, whom they'd like to emulate, and 
what kinds of people? 

B: No, they don't talk about heroes. One of the reasons for doing the 
political socialization autobiography is to get people to realize that the 
whole idea of hero worship is based on false premises, one of which is 
that they are sort of perfect people— Lincoln freeing the slaves, which 
he didn't, George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, which 
he didn't! And sort of go back and look at some of those myths. In a 
way, those socialization myths of heroes set us up for disappointment 
and cynicism. Real people, real human beings can never conform to 
what they were told a President should be. I generally think politi- 
cians are, on the average, a cut above the rest of us, in terms of hon- 
esty, integrity. Students, as most Americans are now, are sarcastic 
and, again, victims of the era. I'm not sure how our '60s heroes would 
stand up under the scrutiny of the '90s. 

S: Yes, but then you see this huge sort of media show about the death 
of John F. Kennedy, Jr. How do students relate to that? 

B: 1 think, in a way, it is tying into the myth of his father, and there's 
a bit of a longing for that, so it's a reminder that that died, too. J.F.K. 
turns out to be a mythical giant for our students. He's sort of a mod- 
ern Lincoln, in a way. There are all those attractive myths about him, 
even though there are attempts to puncture them. J.F.K., Jr.'s death is 
a reminder of what we think we've lost. We lost the naivete of Camelot, 
a common purpose. Again, it wasn't necessarily there in reality, but at 
least the belief was! 

S: A couple of more questions on teaching, You've been at this a long 
time. Currently, there's a lot of teacher bashing going on, cuts in pub- 
lic expenditures, particularly for state colleges and universities, and 
my question is, especially since we are looking at the context for the 
students, what keeps you going? 



64 The Mind's Eye 



Bab Berne 



B: Well, in a way, I think teacher bashing has been directed more at 
our colleagues in high school and elementary school. I fee] fairly dis- 
tant from that. What keeps me going? Well, the e-mail I received three 
days ago out of the blue from a student who graduated in '92 — whom 
I didn't know that well, but he just wanted to tell me about his life. 
He's pursuing a doctorate in multicultural education at the University 
of San Francisco. Those kinds of things keep me going. Maybe we do 
important tilings! Often we have impact on our students. I like ideas 
and I like the concept of being current with the world, but I also do 
generally enjoy almost every student I have. What else would 1 do? 
[Laughing] I ask myself that question every so often and look at career 
changes. I paused once to seriously ask myself that question, quite a 
while ago, back in the '70s. Whether it's luck, design, choice or fate, I 
am clearly right where I should be. 

S: This is probably not a good term to use, given our age, but if you 
could think of an epitaph that, someone might say about Bob Bence as 
a teacher, how would you like that to read? Say you got a paragraph. 

B: All right. I think I would hope that people would recognize that I 
prize tolerance, I prize diversity, and that I was somewhat of a model 
for intellectual curiosity but, more importantly, acceptance and un- 
derstanding. 

S: Thanks very much. 



Thanks also to Karen DeOrdio, who faithfully transcribed this 
interview from the original tapes, 



The Mind's Eye 65 



Letter 



To the Editor: 

The new name and mission of the Massachusetts College of Lib- 
eral Arts have attracted good attention in the higher-education world. 
But gaining access to the intellectual life of a college is not easy for 
those outside. When I saw the Spring 2000 issue of The Mind's Eye, I 
was impressed. Here, it said, is a place that harbors imaginative, ar- 
ticulate and critical scholars. Here, it said, is a place that might really 
nurture the liberal arts. 

Professor Colligan sent me this issue of the journal because it 
included a review essay she had written on "The Noble Savage in 
Chinese Film." This insightful piece opened my eyes to an aspect of 
Chinese film that connected with themes about representation that 
were familiar to me from my own research on colonial cultures in the 
Pacific islands. But I did not stop with Sumi's contribution. I turned 
next to the moving tribute to John M. C. Hess because of my work at 
The Carnegie Foundation on the varieties of academic careers. And 
then I kept reading— Diana Fox's excellent analysis of Simone de 
Beauvoir's influence on the anthropology of women, which could easily 
have been published in one of the field's own journals; Meera Tamaya's 
illuminating juxtaposition of two very dissimilar books on conscious- 
ness; Andrew Howitt's nice piece on Chinese gardens; the poetry. In 
other words, I started with the essay closest to my own interests and 
then read everything else. This is the great gift of journals like The 
Mind's Eye. They broaden the reach of one's experience, as the liberal 
arts are supposed to do. 

I do hope that you will be able to continue publication of this fine 
journal. At a moment when North Adams appears to be on the cusp of 
a small renaissance with a new an museum and a "new" public liberal 
arts college. The Mind's Eye is a timely and lively contribution to the 
intellectual scene. 

Sincerely yours, 

Mary Taylor Huber, Senior Scholar, The Carnegie Foundation 
66 The Mind's Eye 



Contributors 



Robert Bence has taught political science at Massachusetts College 
of Liberal Arts since 1976. He has presented numerous papers, many 
of them on Canada and Canadian studies. In 1992, he was a visiting 
professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. His book 
reviews have appeared in The Mind 's Eye, The American Review of Cana- 
dian Studies. Africa Today and New Directions in Teaching. 

Roselle K. Chartock is a professor of education at Massachusetts 
College of Liberal Arts. She coedited the anthology Can It Happen Again: 
Chronicles of the Holocaust (1995) and is the recent author/editor of the 
text Educational Foundations: An Anthology. Her public access television 
program, "Conversations in Education," continues to be broadcast 
monthly throughout Berkshire County. 

Tony Gengarelly teaches art history and museum studies at Massa- 
chusetts College of Liberal Arts. He has organized exhibitions for the 
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and the Williams College 
Museum of Art. He has authored several articles and books, including 
a 1 989 catalog, The Prendergasts and the Arts and Crafts Movement, and a 
1996 monograph, Distinguished Dissenters and Opposition to the 1919-1920 
Red Scare. 

Robin O'Sullivan lives in Great Barrington and is a project coordi- 
nator and editorial assistant for Berkshire Publishing Group. Her cre- 
ative nonfiction has appeared in The Berkshire Review. She has also 
covered South County news and arts for the Berkshire Record. 

Hilary Russell chairs the English Department at the Berkshire School 
in Sheffield, Massachusetts. His poetry has appeared in Ploughshares 
and Country Journal as well as many other magazines. He has also 
published a chapbook. Giving Up the House. 

Maynard Seider teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Lib- 
eral Arts. He is the author of A Year in the Life of a Factory, based on his 
experiences in a California transformer factory. He has also produced 
a play, The Sprague Years, performed at Massachusetts College of Lib- 
eral Arts in 1995. 



The Mind's Eye 67 



68 The Mind's Eye 



Mind's Eye 

Writer's Guidelines 



While emphasizing articles ol scholarly merit, The Mind's Eye focuses on a general 
communication ol ideas of interest to a liberal arts college. We welcome expository 
essays as well as fiction, poetry and art from [acuity and guest contributors. Wc 
publish twice a year. The deadline for the Fall issue is July 15. Deadline lor the 
Spring issue is January 15. 

Submissions should adhere to these guidelines: 

1 . Submit unpublished manuscripts both on paper and on disk, using either PC or 
MAC platform word-processing programs. Manuscripts should be typed double 
spaced. Your name, address, phone number and e-mail address, if available, should 
be listed on the cover sheet; your name should appear at the top ol each page. 

2. We will consider simultaneous submissions under the provision that the author 
notify us of this and contact us immediately if the material is accepted elsewhere. 

3. If you wish your manuscript and disk returned, please enclose a return self- 
addressed envelope. If it is to be mailed off campus, attach sufficient postage. 
While we make every attempt to safeguard your manuscript and disk, we cannot be 
held responsible for their loss. 

4. Use MLA or APA style, with in-text references, as appropriate to the content and 
disciplinary approach of your article (see MLA or APA stylebooks for guidelines). 

5. While we will consider articles of unspecified length, preference is given to 
articles of under 20 pages. 

6. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and accuracy. 

7. We will consider one-color artwork (e.g., photographs, line drawings, woodcuts). 

8. Payment will lie made in contributor's copies. 



Submit your manuscript to: 

The Mind's Eye 
Tony Gengarelly, Managing Editor 
Campus Box 9132 
Massachusetts College ol Liberal Arts 
375 Church Street 
North Adams, MA 01247 
For queries: agengare@nicla.mass.edu